The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) says a stalemate in consensus by an inter-ministerial committee has delayed the implementation of the ban on plastics and their production in the country.
While presenting a paper reviewing Government policy on the implementation of the ban on plastic carrier bags, NEMA Executive Director Tom Okurut called on the committee to uphold the Finance Act of 2009 and other measures aimed at safeguarding the environment until the National Environment Bill is enacted into law.
Okurut noted that the Ministry of Trade had disagreed with a total ban on plastic materials saying that the concept of microns had to be put in place so as to distinguish what should be banned and what can pass, in a bid to protect investors manufacturing plastics.
“In April 2015, cabinet constituted an inter-ministerial committee consisting Ministries of Trade, Water and Environment, Finance and Agriculture as well as NEMA, UMA and KACITA, to process implementation of the ban with input from the President,” Okurut told the MPs.
He added that however, NEMA was directed to continue the ban on plastics below 30 microns as it waited for guidance from Cabinet on how to handle other types of plastic materials that are above 30 microns.
The Minister for Water and Environment, Hon. Sam Cheptoris, however, said the ministry had prepared a cabinet paper suggesting recommendations on how best to implement the ban on single-use plastics [kavera], which he said will be handled by cabinet next week.
Cheptoris added that the biggest percentage of Ugandans support a total ban on plastic use saying a study indicated that Ugandans know of the dangers of re-using single-use plastic material.
“This is a global problem and there have been global efforts to ban plastics worldwide, because the UN passed a resolution calling for specific, internationally-agreed goals to tackle plastic waste,” said Cheptoris.
The Minister and senior officials from NEMA were appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources to give feedback on issues pertaining to progress made on the implementation of the ban on single-use plastics in Uganda.
MPs also raised concerns over industries dealing in manufacturing plastics, asking how NEMA intended to ensure that they do not continue with production.
“Are we also putting in place contingency measures to cater for some industries that focus on production of the plastic carrier bags in case the ban is implemented,” inquired Hon. Ariko Herbert (FDC, Soroti Municipality).
The MPs have committed to engage other stakeholders including Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives in a bid to get a unified position on the implementation of the ban and enactment of the National Environment Bill 2017.
In the 2008/2009 financial year, a joint decision by the East African Community (EAC) member states banned manufacture, importation and use of plastic carrier bags of less than 30 microns, and imposed an excise duty of 120 per cent on all imported plastics of 30 microns and above.