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

Video Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid