President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has said he's against banning of plastic bags locally known as kaveera, because the problem is not the kaveera, but rather its misuse.
The debate on banning of polythene bags roots way back to 2000 when environmentalists, ministry of Health ministry and the Uganda Cancer Institute made it clear that kaveera use is harmful both to the environment and human health.
Health officials have continuously noted that plastic materials contain plasticizers which leach into the food chain thus causing non-communicable diseases like cancer. To Museveni however, there are very many reasons why Ugandans preferred the use of plastics than other packing materials thus suggesting that kaveera just needs to be controlled by opting for proper managing and recycling.
"We have tried the tradition packaging means and materials and they used to disturb us a lot - pots, gourds would break and are bulky. There are reasons why plastics became more preferred than any other packages. The only problem of plastics is when you hold them improperly." said Museveni.
Museveni says that instead of banning use of polythene bags, the country needs factories which can recycle it into other products.
"I'm not in favour of banning plastics, I’m in favour of recycling plastics. Those who want plastics banned, say that plastics are harmful to the environment. But when we recycle, there will not be that problem." added Museveni.
After a long debate on the matter, in 2010 government passed the 2010 Statute which prohibited manufacture, import, sell, use, distribute or otherwise dealing in plastic bags giving an exception to only plastic woven bags for the packaging and conveyance of goods and plastics. Polythene bags below 30 microns were completely banned.
However, this was never implemented as several groups of people more so plastic manufacturers, petitioned government for a grace period to empty their stores. In 2016, National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) backed by police and the Uganda Revenue Authority launched the implementation of the ban by raiding supermarkets and shops in Kampala to seize the polythene bags being used.
Although several shopping centres were forced to find alternative packaging materials, it never lasted long before the situation went back to 'normal'.
Badru Muwanga, the proprietor of Luuka Plastics, says currently, Uganda has a number of plastic manufactures who have heavily invested and have all the required equipment which can recycle the plastics and make new products.
Currently the parliamentary committee on Natural Resources is discussing The National Environment Bill, 2017 which seeks among other issues to ban the use of polythene bags. Clause 75 of the Bill says that the minister may, by regulation, prohibit or restrict the import, export, local manufacture, use or reuse of all categories of plastics or plastic products made of polymers of ethane or polythene.
However, information from the parliament website indicates that when Trade minister Amelia Kyambadde appeared before the committee earlier last month, she suggested that Clause 75 of the Bill be amended by inserting the imposition of a green levy on manufacturers of plastics and plastic products, at a rate determined by concerned ministries.
According to Kyambadde, the green levy shall be for the purposes of raising funds to facilitate the management of plastics and plastic products, with an estimated Shs 8 billion collected annually for the purpose.
Neighbouring countries like Rwanda already slapped a ban on the use of polythene bags with strict laws manufacturing and importation of all plastic bags for commercial and household use.