The Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) says it is expecting government to issue a Statutory Instrument that will empower the Agency to implement the process of phasing out plastic bags and other related packaging materials.

In an interview yesterday, ZEMA public relation officer Irene Chipili said the Agency was cautious not to kill the plastic manufacturing industry in the country, but stressed that there was need for a regulatory policy that would compel plastic processing companies to be responsible for waste management emanating from their products.

She said ZEMA had already put in place an “Extended Producer Responsibility” (EPR) framework, which was awaiting government approval and adoption.

“Plastics are in different categories so it (the phasing out of plastics) will be in phases. What we are actually calling for, as a regulator, is for government to adopt what we refer to as an Extended Producer Responsibility. [This is] a statutory instrument that will compel all producers of any packaging products to recycle, reuse as well as be responsible for managing the waste out of the environment,” Chipili said.

“So, industries will actually realise that it will be very expensive for them to start removing the plastics because they will end up spending money on collecting in most of the environment so they will stop using them because it will be costly.”

And Chipili also said the Agency would consider a gradual process of phasing out plastics.

“ZEMA has never said don’t ban plastics, our position has always been a gradual ban of the use of plastics. Imagine if today government issued that directive and banned plastics. What is supposed to happen to all these industries that are producing all kinds of packaging products?” asked Chipili.

“People must understand that when we talk about plastics it’s not just the carrier bags. It’s all these packaging products, we use so many of them for beverages and so many food products and many others. That’s why we would rather request for a gradual ban so that the industries prepare to phase out plastics.”