Inertia of plastic packaging management in West Africa


All forms of plastic packaging, which is known as “Sahel flowers”, have been entered for many decades in the households’ daily life of West African society. The negative consequences of plastic packaging have been rapidly manifested and have led to the development of a legal framework for the control of plastic packaging in the West African States. Nevertheless, the problem continues to be unsolved and has significant environmental impacts, which demonstrates the inertia of the management framework. Therefore, this work will address the following questions. What are the objectives of this framework? Why is it difficult to meet expectations and how to improve this situation?     

The objectives of the plastic packaging management

According to the United Nations (UN) Environment report 2018 called “The State of Plastics”, the plastics industry will use almost 20% of world oil consumption by 2020. Currently, the main materials used to produce this packaging are generally derived from petroleum, natural gas, and coal. After the usage, the packaging is thrown away into uncontrolled landfills that lead to blocking of the rivers and wastewater treatment systems, infection of the seas and destruction of its biodiversity.

Due to this effect, the regulations of all West African States on plastic packaging have common aims in preventing and reducing the volume of plastic waste and related harm. It also provides for collecting, sorting, recycling and reusing in order to add value to packaging and to tackle effectively its impact on health.

In spite of the global or cross-border nature of the effects of plastic bags, the States continue to draft individual regulations, which, in fact, do not enable the effectiveness of the management framework. It justifies the lack of evident results in these years.

The sources of the management’s inefficiency

According to the above-mentioned UN report, around 300 million tons of plastic waste is produced each year, all over the world. In West Africa, more than 80% of plastic waste is poorly managed or even unregulated that results in environmental pollution.

The main reason for this inaction is the “carelessness” of the public authorities for the regulations. The procedures are not generally attended by appropriate control mechanisms which are necessary for the assessment of the used tools. Therefore, it is difficult to know the real impact of the mechanisms of all stakeholders on the environment.

Besides this, the development of an illegal market for these plastic bags remains a serious difficulty in the effectiveness of the regulation. In addition to this illegal market, there is an absence of harmonization of rules in the African States and inadequacy of collection and treating infrastructures in this sphere.

Proposals to tackle the issue

To support the effectiveness of implemented laws, it’s necessary to raise awareness and inform people about the impacts and dangers of plastic bags and waste. These actions must be spread among children, who represent an important conduit of acceptance, families, households as well as populations.

The plastics companies must be encouraged by the legislation to remake their companies in companies recycling and managing their existing plastics and waste. In this regard, the incentives taxes or even the exemptions will be an excellent support.

Apart from these solutions, the general harmonization of Community law applicable in the African States is necessary, as this will make it easier to spread into the sub-regional level.

Moreover, national and community policies and programs must be coherent with the stakeholders’ expectations and needs. Thus, it’s possibly due to real participation and inclusive democracy.



A propos de Nafissatou FALANA

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