Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry Christopher Yaluma says the public requires greater sensitization on what side-effects plastic materials have on the environment before a full ban takes effect.

And Yaluma says the Ministry of Local Government has signed memoranda of understanding with some foreign institutions to come and put up a plant in the country to generate power from waste.

Meanwhile, Minister of Labour and Social Security Joyce Simukoko says a total number of 178,908 jobs were created countrywide in 2016.

Last month, Local Government Ministry Permanent Secretary Amos Malupenga disclosed that Cabinet would soon make a resolution to ban the use of plastic bags in order combat litter on the streets and prevent wastage of resources.

Responding to a question raised by Kaputa PF member of parliament, Maxus Ngonga, following the resumption of Parliament, Tuesday, on whether it was possible for Zambia to do away with plastics, Yaluma responded in the affirmative, but conceded that the general public needed greater sensitization to realise the harmful effects plastic materials had on the environment.

“Indeed, we can do away with plastics. All what we need is, if we really fail to sensitize the public to realise the side-effects that plastics do contaminate the environment and some other issues, yes, we can move that way and get rid of the plastics in our midst and then end up with hard paper bags to carry our groceries,” Yaluma said.

Asked by Senga Hill PF member of parliament Kapembwa Simbao when his Ministry intended to put in a system to separate waste, bearing in mind that plastic took long to decompose, Yaluma said government had already started providing containers for refuse.

“Yes, indeed we have a lot of negative impacts arising from plastics lying around all over the streets, but be as it may, we have in collaboration [with] local government, we have managed to start providing containers for refuse, which are designated for bottles, cardboard papers, newspapers and as well as purely for plastics so that we can have plastics taken for the rightful recycling places. That is very much in use, it’s just that the people haven’t yet gotten used or know the new consequences of plastics. So, we are sensitizing the people through local government, that they must start separating the waste as per category,” Yaluma added.

Simbao also wanted to know the average amount of plastic products which were imported per month and how much was recycled.

And Yaluma responded that as at end of 2017, the average amount of plastic products imported per month was about 11,114,990Kg.

He, however, noted that the tonnage of plastic waste generated per month was currently not quantified as there were no modalities in place to separate waste.

“As at the end of 2017, the average amount of plastic products imported per month was about 11,114,990 kg. The House may wish to note that the tonnage of plastic waste generated per month in Lusaka District, Copperbelt and countrywide is currently not quantified as there is no modalities in place that separates waste by type such as plastic, paper, glass and others. Further, there are no installed means of measuring the tonnage located at dump sites for wastes to ascertain the amount disposed. Currently, institutions governing the management of dump sites do not record the amount of plastic waste being recycled due the absence of modalities for assessment,” Yaluma said.

And responding to a question from Kantanshi independent MP Anthony Mumba, who wanted to know whether the Commerce Ministry had any plans to start using plastics to produce energy, Yaluma said the Ministry of Local Government had signed memoranda of understanding with some foreign institutions to put up a plant that would generate power from waste.

“Yes, there have been memorandum of understandings, which have been signed between the Local Government [Ministry] and some foreign institutions, which would like to come and put up a plant to generate power from waste,” he said.

“Now, when you talk of banning, remember there are different categories of plastics we are talking about here. Plastics you use in supermarkets; plastics you use to package fertilizer; plastics which they use in mining. So, we must be specific to which ones we could totally ban. I would say more [on] domestic plastics, I think that’s a way to go as a beginner because they don’t handle those plastics with caution. But for the other uses of plastics in huge commercial environments, we would say that we would allow it to go because they do take serious consideration as regards to the environment.”

Meanwhile, Minister of Labour and Social Security, Joyce Simukoko, said a total number of 178,908 jobs were created countrywide in 2016.

“According to the NAPSA register, the total number of jobs created countrywide in 2016, stood at 178,908. This figure largely excludes the informal sector as per its characteristics. The jobs in the informal sector are not registered with tax and pension authorities. The informal sector constitutes about 84 per cent of the labour force. I wish to inform this House that, generation of statistics on the number of jobs created is a still a challenge. To address this, my Ministry has begun to develop the labour market information system to gather statistics from establishments and the public employment services that are being revamped and will be set-up at district level progressively. It is expected that the system will help in providing an insight into the employment and labour market trends at provincial and district levels,” Simukoko said.

She further said government had plans to create more and better jobs, which would be achieved through economic diversification.

“Government has plans to create more jobs by promoting pro-poor growth with focus on economic diversification and job creation, reducing developmental inequalities and enhancing human development. This is in line with 7NDP. The creation of more and better jobs in the economy will be achieved through economic diversification, which is currently among the top priorities by government,” added Simukoko.

“However, on the issue of creation of jobs, going by the programmes outlined in the 7NDP, it is clear that the responsibility for job creation lies with sector ministries, the private sector, including; small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The Ministry of Labour only plays an enabling role by ensuring that the jobs being created are decent and conform to labour laws.”

She was responding to a question from Simbao who wanted to know how many jobs were created in 2016 and what plans government had to create more jobs.