Tanzania's plastic ban: what travellers need to know

Porter heading towards Mt Kilimanjaro
Porter heading towards Mt Kilimanjaro

As of June 2019, plastic bags are not allowed in Tanzania, as the country steps up in the global movement against single plastic use.

Special desks will be designated at border posts and airports for travellers entering the country to surrender their plastic bags. The strict government initiative hopes to cut down on plastic waste in the country and to help preserve the natural beauty of Tanzania.

The United Republic of Tanzania released a notice for travellers wishing to visit the country that "all plastic carriers, regardless of their thickness, will be prohibited from being imported, exported, manufactured, sold, stored, supplied and used in Mainland Tanzania."

Visitors must avoid carrying or using plastic carrier bags for items in their suitcase or in their hand luggage. However, ziplock bags specifically used to carry toiletries are permitted as they are expected to remain the permanent possession of visitors and to not be disposed of in Tanzania.

When you arrive into Tanzania carrying items in a plastic bag, customs and immigration will confiscate the bag. We suggest bringing a few cloth carry bags or stuff sacks (which pack down to nothing) from home to store your personal items and laundry.

Tanzania is not the first African country to take a step towards removing plastic bags.  It follows Kenya, Mali, Cameroon, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Malawi, Morocco, South Africa, Rwanda and Botswana, all of which have already either banned plastic bags completely or now charge a tax on them.

The plastic waste issue for African countries is serious.  At one stage, it was suggested South Africa had named the plastic bag its national flower, since there were so many bags littering their landscape.

This situation is not new and many countries across the globe are slowly following suit. So far, 65 countries have imposed bans and another 31 countries impose a tax per bag.

The Earth Policy Institute estimates that a trillion plastic bags are used throughout the world each year.

Fast facts: the plastic issue

Plastic bags are made from polyethylene, which almost always comes from some form of fossil fuel.  Although shopping bags are recyclable in the short term, many pollute our landscapes and waterways, blocking drains and sewerage pipes and killing marine animals. Longer term, plastic bags never break down fully, remaining micro plastics, which release toxins into the environment, to be ingested by animals and entering the human food chain. 


How to reduce your plastic use when you travel

Countries around the world vary in their commitment to ban plastic bags, but you can make a difference to the war on plastic bags when you travel. Travel with reusable bags, so when you are offered a plastic bag you can politely refuse. Consumer sentiment cannot be underestimated in the drive to minimize plastic. Read these eight ways to avoid plastic use when you travel.

Another action that can make a difference is to collect plastic bags that blemish the natural landscape and end up in waterways, removing them from the environment and finding a responsible method of disposal, such as a recycling plant.

World Expeditions' 10 Pieces program has been encouraging trekkers in many destinations to collect paper and plastic litter from trails.  Since February 2018, on Mount Kilimanjaro, for example, more than 110 trekkers have volunteered to participate in the program with plastic bags being the number one item collected.

Litter that is collected by trekkers is carried off the mountain by porters and handed over to National Park Rangers for proper disposal. The initiative has even encouraged other people on treks to follow suit in picking up rubbish.

A small effort can collectively make a huge difference by placing the issue at hand in the spotlight by helping educate mountain communities on the negative consequences of litter for the benefit  and the health of their animals and people.

Written by Donna Lawrence, the Responsible Travel Manager at World Expeditions.

thoughtful travel, responsible travel, ecotourism, plastic bags, plastic ban, sustainability, 10 pieces, tanzania, kilimanjaro, environment, environmental issues

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