plastic-wasteWhile used plastics create an environmental problem in developed countries, that problem is reduced by efficient waste disposal and recycling systems. In countries which do not have efficient waste processing systems, the problems created by plastics are much greater. In many developing countries, used plastics just accumulate by roadsides, blocking drains, destroying visual amenity, and creating hazards for wildlife.

At refuse dumpsites, impoverished scavengers hunt for recyclable materials in order to eke out a living sufficient to pay for food. At the Kiteezi tip in Kampala, scavengers are able to earn 6 cents per kilogram of recyclable plastic waste collected. Driven by the necessity of abject poverty, whole families are engaged in scavenging at landfills across Africa, with great detriment to their health and personal safety.

Various governmental measures have been taken in East Africa to address the plastics issue. A meeting of finance ministers in 2007 resolved to ban plastic bags with a density below 30 microns. Rwanda has in fact banned plastic bags and has a control regime which requires importers to return plastic wrappers to the Customs office before subsequent imports are allowed. Other East African countries have no enforcement regimes.

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