South Africa

Plastic Bag Ban Places Burden on Poor

Last modified on July, 6 2009 by Site Administrator

In 2003, a South African law banning plastic bags thinner than 30 microns (thin enough for a finger to poke through) was put into effect to try and curb the nationís yearly consumption of 8 billion plastic bags. The punishment for retailers who continued to distribute these bags was set at either a fine equivalent to US$13,800 per offense or a maximum of 10 years in jail. Now, instead of using the thin plastic bags that have been a commonality in South African landscapes, consumers must purchase bags as thick as those used in trash bins if they wish to continue using plastic.

While the environmental advantages are certainly clear, the drawback to such a ban falls directly on South Africaís poor, who have traditionally used littered plastic bags to make products (including hats and handbags) which they then sell. Such projects become undeniably more difficult, if not impossible, to follow through when the plastic for these items must first be bought. Overall, the long term effects of this ban have yet to be seen.

>For more information, visit our References page  


South Africa bans plastic bags from BBC News, May 9, 2003
An article from the day South Africaís new plastic bag ban went into effect. Details the hopes of the program and its specifications.

Africa Wages War on Plastic Bags, December 17, 2007
Serves as a helpful look into the problem of plastic bags in South Africa and on the African continent as a whole.