Mon. Dec 16th, 2019

These African countries are leading the world in plastic bag bans

plastic pollution whale PhilippinesThese countries are leading the line in tightening up laws on plastic bag bans.

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African countries have made strides in their fight against plastic pollution. Since Rwanda took a brave step in placing a ban on non-biodegradable plastic, the rest of the continent followed suit and what we have now is Africa at the forefront of improving the environment with strict plastic bag bans.

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), African countries with a GDP that relies heavily on its tourism industry are at a crossroads. While the issue of plastic pollution can be managed domestically, it becomes difficult to control the influx of it at the country’s borders and ports.

Related: WHO Report: Air pollution causes more deaths than smoking

Tanzania takes next step in tightening plastic bag bans

Tanzania, however, is one of the first countries in the world that will be piloting a restriction of plastic at their borders and airports. As of 1 June, travellers with plastic in their luggage will be forced to leave these belongings at a designated desk before being granted access into the country.

The office of Tanzania’s vice president, Samia Suluh revealed that the government is implementing the second phase on its plastic bag ban.

Two years earlier, the Tanzanian government had implemented an anti-plastic initiative with a ban on the manufacturing of plastic bags — the first phase.

Related: Shocking pollution levels and how you can help

Although the non-participation of most industrial superpowers has done nothing to affect their economy, living in a cleaner environment is much more beneficial.

Other African countries leading in fighting plastic pollution

These African countries have been working on improving their stringent laws on plastic use, and with more collaboration with the private sector and civilians, the continent could achieve the impossible — living in a pollution-free environment.

South Africa

South Africa has, for a while, enjoyed a semi-strict position on plastic bag legislation. Under Section 24 of the Environmental Conservation Act, certain plastic bags are prohibited.

Plastic bags — made from plastic film — with a wall thickness of less than 80 micrometres is prohibited. If the plastic is, in thickness, between 30 and 80 micrometres, it cannot have any printing or labelling on it.

Breaking the laws on plastic bags in South Africa comes with a hefty R100 000 fine or a maximum imprisonment term of 10 years. The country has recently come under pressure for being late in reacting to Tanzania’s progressive bans.

Related: Climate change: obsession with plastic pollution distracts from bigger challenges


Kenya is notorious for having the strictest penalties for plastic bag use. The country, for the most part, gotten rid of most of its bags and replaced with a thicker bag made from synthetic fabric.

However, as notable as the progress is, it has come with some resistance. According to a National Geographic insert on the topic, it was stated that a bags cartel has struck the country, filtering in thousands of metres of plastics illegally.

This has not discouraged the Kenyan government to continue with improving the environment.


Kigali, in Rwanda, is considered one of the cleanest cities in the world. This is no surprise, as the country is Africa’s most advanced in its fight against plastic pollution.

Related: We’re now pooping plastic because pollution is in our food

The government’s ban on non-biodegradable plastics, 11 years ago, has been identified as one of the reasons why the country’s environmental state has improved.

Moreover, thousands of Rwandans, on the last Saturday of every month, get together to participate in Umuganda, a mandatory practice that means “coming together to achieve a common purpose”. During this time, citizens of the country commit to environmental projects.

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