Swakopmund uses about 25 million shopping bags annually

An estimated 25 million plastic shopping bags are used by consumers in Swakopmund annually – most end up on the landfill.
In an effort to reduce this immense waste the town council is preparing a levy system whereby retailers charge a levy to shoppers for plastic bags. The income generated from the levies is earmarked for an environmental fund.
This might come into operation by early 2018.
The figure about shopping bag usage in Swakopmund was revealed last Wednesday by Jaco Venter, the managing director of Plastic Packaging Namibia. That was during a consultative meeting with retailers and other stakeholders the municipality organised in lieu of a by-law that is now prepared to enable retailers to charge the public for shopping bags. A dozen people attended the meeting.
“Swakopmund can become unique and be an example to the rest of the world”, Venter said during the meeting. According to him the shopping bag is one of the most versatile products available, as it is used for a variety of purposes. Most is re-used even for a second and third time.
However, after that the plastic bag ends up in the trash and ultimately goes to the landfill. Fortunately, plastic bags also end up in the waste recycling circle such as the waste sorting plant of Rent-a-Drum.
“It is impossible to ban the use of plastic bags, but we can reduce its usage”, Venter explained.
Currently, Plastic Packaging supplies about 15 million plastic bags to Swakopmund annually. This excludes plastic bags imported from South Africa mainly for chain stores. Venter therefore estimated the figure of plastic bags used only in Swakopmund at 25 million annually.
A draft of the new by-law will be presented to Council soon which, according to Venter, might come into force in a few months’ time. The new by-law will call on all retailers in Swakopmund, be they large supermarkets, clothing stores or small shops to charge a levy for a plastic bag.
A similar levy is already in force in South Africa for a few years. “In South Africa the supermarkets make a profit from the levy. It should not be the case in Swakopmund. In Swakopmund the entire amount will go to the (newly established) environmental fund, which will use the money for various projects to preserve the environment”, Venter added.
During the meeting the introduction of a standard, recyclable shopping bag was also discussed. Retailers can distribute these bags and could even brand these bags. “The bags should be 20 microns, suitable for recycling. Any 14 microns bags cannot be recycled”, Venter explained.
He called on Council to add a clause to ban shopping bags from containing a substance called calcium carbonate CaCO3, which some South African manufacturers add to the bags to make it stronger.
Shopping bags containing CaCO3 cannot float. Once it ends up in the ocean it sinks where it cannot break down. “These are also not recyclable”, he explained.
“Swakopmund is perfect to start the project. Ultimately, this should become a countrywide thing. If we do it right, Swakopmund can set the example to the rest of the world. Ultimately, we want to have no plastic to go to the landfill at all”, Venter said.

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