News / Africa

Cameroon Plastic Ban Impact on Food Packaging

FILE - Seona Ngufor of Cameroon carries bags of squash.
FILE - Seona Ngufor of Cameroon carries bags of squash.
Cameroonians are returning to traditional methods of transporting and packaging food after the government banned the production, sale and use of non-biodegradable plastic bags.  People are now using large plantain leaves to store food - a move that has sparked mixed reactions among consumers and restaurateurs.

It is early morning in Mfou on the outskirts of Cameroon's capital, Yaounde.  Nka Pamela, a 26-year-old woman, is visiting a farm to buy plantain leaves.

This has been part of her routine ever since the government banned the importation, possession, sale and use of non-biodegradable plastic bags.  People have until April to use up all the bags already in circulation.
 
Pamela said demand for leaves has skyrocketed and led to scarcity in many Yaounde neighborhoods. “At times the farmers will refuse to sell.  There are times that they increase their prices so it makes it difficult for us to bring leaves to Yaounde to sell,” she stated.
 
At the Mfoundi market in Yaounde, food vendors are now also selling leaves.  Restaurant owner Etta Deborah said she uses them to package some African traditional meals like corn fufu, koki, achu and mendumba.

“It is natural and then it is our African culture to use leaves for keeping [conserving] food and I want to protect my customers,” she explained.
 
But not everyone is happy.  Resident Ben Collins said he is concerned about health risks.

“You don’t know the origin of the leaves.  You don't know how the leaves were transported.  You don't know how they were conserved.  You don’t know the chemical reaction between the leaf and the food," he said. "And sometimes leaves are used for medicinal purposes and sometimes people unknowingly package their food with not knowing the effect.”
 
Dr. Agatha Tanya, nutritionist and lecturer at the University of Yaounde teaching hospital, said there is nothing to be worried about if leaves are used appropriately for packaging. 

“We can use leaves, natural leaves which we have in abundance and wrap food in it.  And besides, these leaves have a very, very nice flavor,” she said.

Other market vendors say leaves are not practical for packaging many items.  Nevielle Ngalim sells bread in Yaounde. 

“Where do they want us to put the bread and the cake?  To me the banning of the plastic is not normal,”  said Ngalim.
 
Ajongo Jean-Pierre - an official with Cameroon's Ministry of Environment - is an advocate of leaves but says consumers need to understand that the new ban only impacts non-biodegradable plastic bags.

“All plastics are not banned, but we should come back to natural leaves to replace the plastics,” he said.
 
The Cameroon Association for the Defense of the Rights of Consumers is asking the government to rethink how to roll out the ban so as not to hurt the economy. 

“Unfortunately, the socio-economic aspect was not taken into consideration which means that if incentive measures are not put in place, so many people within the sector will be affected," said Yvonne Tarkang, with the association. "So we think that the government should… come up with alternatives because non-biodegradable plastic bags are banned in Cameroon.”
 
Cameroon decided to ban non-biodegradable plastic bags on the grounds they clog waterways, spoil the landscape, and end up in landfills where take a thousand years to break down and degrade into particles which pollute the soil and water.

The government has announced plans to start producing other types of bio-degradable food packaging materials in partnership with private companies.

Cameroonians have until April to use up all of the plastic bags already in circulation.  After that, people using the bags could face heavy fines or even prison time.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As the tumult in the Middle East distracts Obama, shifting American focus eastward appears threatened More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid