News / Africa

Cameroon Plans to Phase Out Plastic Bags

Cameroonian officials say proliferating plastic bags, ironically called 'African flowers', are becoming an environmental nuisance (AP)..Cameroonian officials say proliferating plastic bags, ironically called 'African flowers', are becoming an environmental nuisance (AP)..
x
Cameroonian officials say proliferating plastic bags, ironically called 'African flowers', are becoming an environmental nuisance (AP)..
Cameroonian officials say proliferating plastic bags, ironically called 'African flowers', are becoming an environmental nuisance (AP)..
Ntaryike Divine Jr.
Authorities in Cameroon have begun rolling out a campaign to eliminate non-degradable plastic bags by early next year. 
 
The measure seeks to halt their risk to human and animal life as well as the environment. 
 
Producers, importers and marketers of non-degradable plastic wrappings in Cameroon have until March next year to halt their distribution, or face government sanctions. 
 
A decision announced in early August by the Ministry of the Environment states that beyond the end date, violators will risk between two and ten years imprisonment and fines of up to 20, 000 US dollars. 
 
The clampdown was prompted by a study ministry study issued last year indicating that some six million tons of plastic waste are generated across Cameroon every year.  The report further adds that over half of all plastic bag users dump them anywhere.
 
Urban and rural landscapes are littered with the discarded tattered plastic bags flapping from roof and tree-tops, tucked underneath shrubs, littering streets and open fields and clogging drainage systems.

In Douala, Cameroon, a consumer purchases eggs and bread distributed in plastic bags. (VOA / D. Ntaryike)In Douala, Cameroon, a consumer purchases eggs and bread distributed in plastic bags. (VOA / D. Ntaryike)
x
In Douala, Cameroon, a consumer purchases eggs and bread distributed in plastic bags. (VOA / D. Ntaryike)
In Douala, Cameroon, a consumer purchases eggs and bread distributed in plastic bags. (VOA / D. Ntaryike)
Experts say the growing number of plastic bags is a huge menace to humans and animals as well as to the environment. 

William Lemnyuy, an official in charge of waste control in the Ministry of the Environment, said when they remain in the environment, the bags block gutters, creating flooding. They also interfere with food production by preventing water from reaching the soil.  Ingested plastics can also block the bowels of  livestock.
 
The disposable bags are made from polyethylene, a petroleum byproduct with long repeating chains of hydrogen and carbon molecules known as polymers which can be heated, shaped and cooled to obtain plastic bags.
 
They're relatively cheap to produce and easily affordable and can easily be tossed away. But plastics can take a thousand years to decompose, and even so, they only break down into smaller toxic particles that contaminate water, soils and people.
 
The UN Environment Program estimates that up to five trillion plastic bags are manufactured worldwide annually. Of that number, only one percent is recycled.    
 
"When you put hot food in a plastic bag,"  said Lemnyuy, "you start seeing the plastic melting.  Some fluids from the plastic start going into your food.  Plastic feeding bottles are not good for children because they use chemicals in them like bio-phenols which can cause sterility."
 
Lemnyuy said they can also cause cancer and birth defects.
 
Meanwhile, plastic bags have been quickly adopted for shopping and packaging.  Today,  the bags – referred to ironically as  “African Flowers”  -- have become a modern scourge.  Several countries, beginning with South Africa in 2003,  prohibit their use.
 
In Cameroon, the planned ban has sparked some grumbling.  At the main market in Douala, vendors package every purchased item in non-degradable plastic bags. 
 
The government has announced plans to begin producing non-degradable plastics beginning next year.  It also intends to support private initiatives to recycle the bags, though the details are still being worked out.
 
In the meantime, environmentalists say a shift in thinking is crucial if the bags are to be eliminated. 
 
Serge Katzem Poumfe, who works at the Regional Delegation for the Environment in Douala, suggests a return to simpler times when the leaves of plantains and other plants were used in food packaging.
 
"Of course," he said, "there’re alternative materials.  If we cannot have access to leaves, we have other materials – cartons and biodegradable materials --that we can begin to go in for."
 
In the meantime, civil society organizations are joining government efforts to help recycle waste into usable productions – including woven fashion accessories, roof insulation, drums and children’s’ soccer balls. 
 
One effort is a yearlong private sector initiative launched in Douala in mid-August.  It recruits eco-friendly young people to scavenge the city’s growing garbage heaps for plastic waste that will be used in producing 10,000 litter bins. The government hopes the example will be followed by others in the lead-up to the March 2014 ban.

Listen to report on the hasards of using plastic bags in Cameroon
Listen to report on the hasards of using plastic bags in Camerooni
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs