Consumer Unity Trust Society (CUTS) national coordinator Chenai Makumba says consumers should find alternative ways of carrying their purchased goods from supermarkets as the ban on plastic bags comes into effect.

In an interview, Makumba advised consumers to purchase re-usable carrier bags to hold their goods, now that the ban on plastic bags had taken effect.

She noted that it was important to look at the consumer welfare in a larger context, further warning that climate change would be much worse than the short-term extra cost reusable bags.

Last month, the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) had granted selected chain stores in the country an extended two-week grace period to enable them time to finish off their old stocks of non-compliant plastic carrier bags.

“It definitely has a negative impact on consumers’ spending habits because the retailers are now charging for the plastic bags whereas before they didn’t. But I think we need to think about the consumer welfare in a larger context. The reason the government implemented this ban is because plastic bags have been shown to have a negative impact on the environment and on climate change. And I think those two issues in the long-run will be much more worse for consumers than this short-term sort of higher cost of spending that they have to deal with,” Makumba explained.

“I think we would recommend consumers to find alternative ways of carrying their goods that they purchase. I know [that] retailers are selling reusable bags that consumers just have to buy once and then bring every time they go to a supermarket. But for me, I think when we talk about consumers, we just need to consider it in a larger context.”

And Makumba said despite the inconveniencing extra cost for plastic bags that consumers had to pay, the results of would be beneficial for all in the long-term.

“I am agreeing that it’s more expensive for consumers because they have to buy the plastic bags, but what I am saying is, particularly on this issue, we need to look at the larger consumer welfare because at the end of the day, for example, we start to see negative environmental impact in climate change, consumers will be affected even worse that in the long-run because things like that affect the agriculture sector and other key sectors that impact consumers’ welfare. So, we need to see how consumers can minimize the impact by potentially buying reusable bags. And I think just keep in mind that this decision that was taken by the government is really important in the long-term,” said Makumba.