Morocco's infamous plastic bag plague will (hopefully) be eradicated, after the government passed a bill prohibiting the manufacture, import and use of plastic bags
The bill, presented by the Ministry of Industry, prohibits not only the production but also the marketing of plastic bags.
Though the legislation is aimed at the plastic bags usually offered in the souks or supermarkets, other types are restricted. Bags intended for agricultural or industrial use, collection of garbage, cooler bags or freezer-bags will now be used under strict conditions that prohibit the use for "purposes contrary to that motivating their production".
However, there are cynics who say "don't hold your breath!" They have a certain historical logic on their side, as it was back in 2009 that the first attempt was made to curtail the use of plastic bags.
The ministerial decree issued in September 2009 banned the manufacturing and use of black plastic bags that were littering streets, countrysides and beaches across Morocco. The decree imposed mandatory standards (thickness and quality of the plastic used, impact on food, recycling etc.) that had to be respected by producers or importers of plastic bags.
Then in 2011, a bill on the use of degradable and biodegradable plastic bags was passed on June 16th. This was intended to limit the consumption of plastic bags in Morocco. The new 2011 law was not welcomed by the manufacturers who argued that changing their manufacturing process to make degradable and bio-degradable bags would require huge investments. To comply with the law a manufacturer will need between 500,000 and 1.3 million Dirhams, the industrialists said.
The consequence of violating the law can however result in fines ranging between 10,000 and 500,000 DH. However, The View From Fez could find no evidence of prosecutions.
The choice of the type of packaging, paper or plastic, remains delicate. According to a study reported by The Economist "the plastic bag consumes 18% less energy and less than 3% of the amount water used to manufacture a paper bag. Plastic bags would generate 80% less waste than paper bags while recycling requires 91% less energy." Unfortunately the analysis is questionable as the study was commissioned by Greenberry, a manufacturer of plastic bags!
A nationwide awareness campaign, “Morocco without plastic bags”, was held in October 2012 to educate Moroccans about the danger of plastic bags to the environment and the need to use other alternatives.
The campaign, sponsored by a local association, “Mawarid”, sought to raise public awareness to the problems posed by non-biodegradable plastic bags and to promote among retailers and consumers environment friendly sustainable alternatives.
In July, 2013, the Moroccan Ministry of Energy, Mines, Water and Environment launched an $8.2 million program to fight plastic bags by producing and distributing 3 million cloth bags in 26 pilot cities. Sadly few have been seen since.
In Morocco, some 26 billion plastic bags, or 900 bags per capita are consumed annually, making the kingdom the second largest consumer in the world, after the United States with 380 billion bags per year. Next comes France (17 billion) and Algeria (6 billion).
On average, plastic bags are used for 12 minutes, but they take between 100 and 400 years to degrade.
Thankfully, in some villages there are citizens concerned enough about the problem to take matters into their own hands and there have been some great individual "clean up Morocco" actions. No matter what the government does, the people also have a role to play in making the environment cleaner and safer for everyone.