Nigeria’s house of representatives passed a bill banning the use and sale of plastic bags in the country on Tuesday. The bill says that anyone that fails to provide customers with paper bags in place of plastic risks three years in jail or a fine of N500,000 – or both at the worst case scenario. The bill would have to be worked on by a conference committee of the house and senate before being sent to the president for assent to become a law.
Nigerians have raised concerns as to whether the planned ban on plastic bags is going to be feasible in a country like Nigeria. To put this in a proper context, the United Nations estimates that up to 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide every year. Considering the population of Nigeria, how can this possibly work? How is the trader down the street going to cope?
Critics are already pointing out the essentials lacking in the bill for it to become a law. For instance, there are concerns over the lack of enough alternatives to plastic bags; only paper bag was mentioned as an alternative. Paper bags have its own lows so having it as the only alternative does not address the problem squarely.
Also, it appears there is no measure in place to ensure it would actually work: no provisions to ensure these alternatives would be in abundant supply when it becomes law, there is also no mention of enforcers such as the agencies that would be charged with the responsibility of seeing to it that citizens abide by the law.
There is no doubt that this is a welcome development as it addresses issues bordering around pollution and global warming, but the necessary measures should be put in place and the alternatives provided before we look to ban the use of plastics in the nation.