Since April 24, 2014, the use of non-biodegradable plastics has been banned in Cameroon. Anyone using such plastic bags does so illegally. In markets, pharmacies, supermarkets, shops, grocery stores, fish stores and everywhere else requiring their use, local alternatives are being sought, like the use of old newspapers, cartons, clothes, cement bags, etc.
If you happen to find yourself in a fish shop without some container to carry your fish, then be sure to find it deposited on your cloth, because as you would be told, “il n’y a pas de plastics”, meaning “there are no plastic bags”. If you question why they have no plastic bags for packaging, the response will be “on n’a pas de plastics biodegradables. Les plastics qu’on avait, n’est-ce pas ils sont venus les arrachés? Vous voulez qu’on fasse comment?” (“We have no biodegradable plastic bags. The bags we had have been seized, so what do you want us to do?”)
And so it goes that a stroke at a time, non-biodegradable plastic bags may soon be history. And the reason advanced for this remains that they have negative consequences on the environment, and the health of its inhabitants.
Of course this is true! And I will add that there are even more non-biodegradable plastics to be seized from rivers and streams in the nation’s capital, Yaounde, which often are cause for flooding in the central town; and often causes unhealthy standing water at the backs of homes and even hospitals – a true danger to persons already in danger on hospitals bed.
I will also add that there is even more glaring waste, harmful to the environment and the inhabitants, in the short as well as the long term, like overflowing trash cans, and roads turned to dustbins.
And I will further add, that liquid waste, ensuing from suck-a-ways and overflowing toilets are like streams in prominent markets, like the Acacia market in the Biyem-Assi neighbourhood, Yaounde.
Imagine a lady dressed in trousers, and told that such a dressing is indecent. She is immediately stripped off her garment, and told to get on an acceptable one. Is she expected to remain naked while the alternative is sought? Though the likening to a lady may not avail much, it suffices for me to say before non-biodegradable plastics were to be officially banned in Cameroon; biodegradable alternatives should have been at the disposal of the people.
I do not expect the government to provide the biodegradable plastic bags, neither would I say they shouldn’t do it, if they can. But I think they could have as well spurred actors in the market that could produce such plastics, and ensure their availability in the market before banning those at hand. That, I think, should have been the good government that we expect of it.