Steep penalties for plastic bag levy violations

SWAKOPMUND

06 July 2018 | Environment

Jessica Botes

Retailers could soon be hit with a N$100 000 penalty for failure to charge their clients up to N$1 for using a plastic shopping bag.

In the Swakopmund municipality’s effort to curb plastic pollution in the town, regulations on single use plastic bags have been drafted. These regulations form part of a proposal that the municipality utilise its powers provided under section 94 of the Local Authorities Act of 1992 to introduce a levy on single use plastic bags within its jurisdictional area.

The draft regulations further require that retailers keep record of the number of plastic bags supplied and gross proceeds generated from selling these bags. These records should also be made available to council every year. Failure to comply with these requirements could lead to a fine of up to N$80 000 being issued against a retailer.

Any retailer who gives false or misleading information about their use of plastic bags could be fined N$60 000.

Of the funds generated through the levies, 75% will go directly to council and be used for the newly established environmental fund. The fund is steered by a committee consisting of representatives from the ministry of environment and tourism, the Namibian Coastal Conservation and Management (Nacoma) project, the ministry of fisheries and marine resources, the Otto Herrigel Trust and the municipality.

The remaining 25% will be retained by the retailers.

Should the regulations be adopted as planned, all shops, supermarkets, vendors and restaurants which make use of plastic bags will be affected. Customers will he charged N$1 if a midi plastic bag and 50 cents if a mini plastic bag is provided to them at the cash register for the purpose of carrying food or merchandise out of an establishment.

During the first public consultation meeting last year, a representative of Plastic Packaging, Jaco Venter, said 15 million plastic bags produced by his company are consumed in Swakopmund annually. He said that at least an additional 10 million plastic bags which are imported by larger retailers from South Africa, can be added to this number.

Karin Herrigel, who runs the Otto Herrigel Trust and who is the driving force behind this initiative, said that with this unique approach to the responsible use of plastic bags, Swakopmund will be a global pioneer.

“We are not only trying to mitigate the damage we do to our environment, but we are trying to change people’s mindsets and the way they think about the things they consume,” she said.

Regulations on the use of plastic bags have also been discussed on a national level with the minister of environment and tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, calling for regulations to reduce the use of plastic bags in Namibia.

In his speech which was recently read on his behalf at a World Environment Day event by environmental commissioner Teofilius Nghitila, he also stated that these measures may include the banning of plastic shopping bags or a tax on such bags.

According to him, plastic bags warrant particular attention and regulatory measures to curb their use because of their prevalence, visibility, durability and harmful effects on livestock, wildlife, humans, aquatic life and the broader environment.

Regulations will be introduced in due course in line with the Environmental Investment Fund Act and the Environmental Management Act.

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