WINDHOEK, Aug. 24 – The potential success of a zero-plastic campaign launched recently by Miss Earth Namibia, Elize Shakalela is likely to kick Plastic Packaging (Pvty) Ltd. out of business if government decides to throws in its weight behind her.
Following the successful launch of the campaign which advocates for the use of biodegradable material late last year, Plastic Packaging (Pvty) Ltd has aggressively moved in to defend its territory with Managing Director Jaco Venter meeting with Shakalela a few days ago.
The meeting seemingly sought to coax the environmentalists out of discontinuing their campaign, although according to Shakalela, the two could not reach common ground on issues surrounding the manufacturing and use of plastic.
“The Managing Director took me through the whole plastic production process, how (the product) is made and what efforts they (are investing) to reuse and recycle and how they are using sometimes already used plastic where at times they export it or get it from Rent-a-drum. He said that for him the problem is not the plastics but rather the people who improperly dispose them and that is where we disagree because for me the problem is the plastic and the person”, said Shakalela.
Two years ago, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) issued a report banning micro-plastics. 299 million tones of plastics having been produced worldwide, and countries worldwide, including from Africa have moved to support the zero-plastic undertaking.
And as the zero-plastic campaign gathers momentum, the future of plastic manufacturing in Namibia hangs in the balance while cabinet is in the process of organizing consultative meetings on the idea of implementing a ban.
Plastic Packaging (Pvty) Ltd employs an estimated 500 workers in its three factories, and while the company also owns two distribution companies in South Africa, its annual sales revenue has been estimated at N$ 600 million in this financial year alone.
“The big question is, ‘is plastic bio-degradable or not?’ I understand Plastic Packaging’s concern because they are in the industry, making money, they pay people and so forth. The whole world is moving away from non-biodegradable material and so we need to protect the environment. If they have a solution, other than the banning of plastic then they must lay it on the table,” according to Health Minister, Dr Bernard Haufiku.
He went on to say,” I know they will fight for their life because it is their industry, but we have a bigger life and that is the environment. People often, in the interest of their money making businesses go all the way to want to convince us not to look at the bigger picture. Nothing can stand against the environment.”
Although he admitted that the general population was offside when it comes to reckless plastic disposal, he is of the impression that the surest way to deal with the problem was the outright doing away with of the plastic manufacturing company.
According to Venter, Haufiku’s statements contradict government’s Vision 2030 pledge to grow the already bleeding manufacturing industry, as the country angles toward the transformation of itself into a lucrative industrial harbor.
“Many people from around the world have been erroneously convinced that paper is an environmentally superior option to plastic. Contrary to popular belief, plastic bags are a great choice when it comes to preserving the environment if properly reused and disposed of and, according to the U.S Environment Protection Agency (EPA), present less environmental challenges than competing products such as paper,” said Venter.
Manufacturing contributed only 9.9 % to GDP, while growth rate recorded an average contraction of -2.0% between the NDP4 period of 2012 to 2015.
Decommissioning of the plastic manufacturing plant would result in the loss of an estimated 500 jobs, at a time when experts continue to call for a means to grow the sector fast enough to make a dent on unemployment.
“Jobs would be in jeopardy, and more consumers would switch to environmentally unfriendly paper bags,” said Venter.
Plastic Packaging (Pvty) Ltd.’s position is for government to rather crack down on the widespread use of bags containing Calcium Carbonate (CaCO3) which are being imported from S.A. – Jonsey Douglas