Plastic bags: think thicker!

The ban on thin plastic shopping bags is now in effect. Shoppers either have to provide their own bags or pay for the new-style, thicker, recyclable bags.

Store supplied are a major source of litter. (Image: Frank Gruber)

Brand South Africa reporter

Retailers across the country have to comply with the new regulations prohibiting the use of thin plastic bags and encouraging the use of thicker, more durable, recyclable bags. If you want more information on the new regulations – or want to report retailers who aren’t toeing – there’s a hotline number to dial.The hotline – 0800 203 622 – is being run by the department of environmental affairs and tourism.

Consumers, for their part, have the option of re-using the thicker plastic bags – paying up to 25 cents for the 10-litre plastic bag, 31 cents for the 12-litre bag and 49 cents for the 24-litre one – using their own carrier bags, or doing without bags altogether.

Phindile Makwakwa of the department of environmental affairs and tourism said the new law aims to protect the environment. “Plastic waste is the most visible and is not biodegradable, thus the need to manage the problem,” Makwakwa explained.

She added that retailers had agreed to lower some food prices in order to compensate consumers for the extra expense of the new bags.

The new regulations prohibit the manufacture, trade in and commercial distribution of thin plastic bags in all retail stores in South Africa. According to the new law, plastic bags should now be made thicker, about 30 microns, so they can be easily recycled.

The department argues that the move will strengthen the recycling industry, retaining existing jobs and creating new ones.

Failing to comply with the new legislation¬†could result in fines of up to R10 000 or one years’ imprisonment for first-time offenders, and fines of up to R100 000 or imprisonment of up to 10 years for repeat offenders.

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