Goodbye to plastic: Africa leaps forward with biodegradable bags

Andrew Mupuya alla Yeli Paper Bags (foto CNN)

Questo post è disponibile anche in: Italian

Light, resistant, affordable: if only they weren’t so harmful for the environment, plastic bags would have no rivals on the market.

And indeed, this has been the situation for a long time: decade after decade, though, plastic bags have become so widespread as to threaten the ecosystem and the human species. However, thanks to the gradual increase of global attention to the sustainability of marketed products, plastic bags have made the top of the list of things to be banned in the near future.

With a 2011 law, Italy is among the few European countries to have officially banned the marketing of non-biodegradable bags. Europe has a lot to learn from Africa, which is rich in good examples in this field: the use of plastic bags has been partially or totally prohibited in 27 African countries. Being so hard to dispose of, plastic bags represent a major threat to the correct functioning of sewage systems of developing countries, which are often not very robust. This makes them a danger for the hygiene and health of citizens.

The first African country to adopt a regulation concerning plastic bags was Uganda: in 2004, the country introduced deterrents against the marketing of such bags, which were then completely banned in 2008. This measure was followed by the introduction of tax benefits for companies involved in recycling and manufacturing based on alternative products: a considerable support for local, young and innovative enterprises. These incentives allowed the success of companies such as Yeli Paper Bags Limited, an enterprise started up by twenty-year-old Andrew Mupuya in 2008. Founded with as little as 14 dollars and with skills acquired only through YouTube videos, Yeli Paper Bags currently gives work to 20 employees and produces about 20,000 paper bags per week, selling them to the restaurants and supermarkets of Uganda’s capital Kampala.

The trafficking of illegal bags, of course, is still there both in Africa and in Europe. And yet, the number of companies taking on the path of circular economy is constantly increasing, giving a strong signal for the direction of a sustainable future.

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