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

Video 2nd American Reportedly Killed in Syria

Minnesota television report says Abdirahman Muhumed left area to fight for Islamic State militants More

WHO Fears Ebola Outbreak Could Infect 20,000 People

World Health Organization says outbreak 'continues to accelerate' but that most cases are concentrated in a few local areas More

Angelina Jolie Marries Brad Pitt

Actors wed in small private ceremony Saturday in France More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid