The Mozambican authorities have so far collected about eight tonnes of plastic bags with a thickness of less than 30 micrometres which are now illegal except for use in packaging waste.

The bags cannot be used to hold foodstuffs under new regulations introduced by the government. Starting on Feb 8, teams of officers comprising staff from such bodies as the Ministry of Land, Environment and Rural Development (MITADER), the National Inspectorate of Economic Activities and the Customs Service have been visiting companies which produce, import or sell plastic bags, to remove the illegal items.

MITADER’s General Inspector, Emilia Fumo, was quoted in the media as saying that the companies affected were collaborating with the teams and that an announcement would be made soon about the final destination of the bags which had been confiscated.

At this stage, no fines are being imposed. It is assumed that the bags collected were in stock. However, any future manufacture or import of thin plastic bags can be punished by heavy fines of between 25 and 80 times the monthly minimum wage.

According to government data, there are about 50 producers of plastic materials in Mozambique, most of whom use imported materials.

Under the new regulations, all plastic bags manufactured or imported must be more than 30 micrometres thick, and, for health reasons, must not contain more than 40 per cent of recycled material.

The government is attempting to discourage the use of all plastic bags and shops and other establishments are no longer allowed to give away plastic bags, even those of the appropriate thickness.

Instead, if clients wish the goods they purchase to be placed in plastic bags, they must purchase them, and the bags must appear separately in the receipt.

This provision is allowing shops to charge their customers extortionate prices for bags. In some places a plain and flimsy bag that was free a fortnight ago now costs two meticais (4.2 US cents).

Source: AIM