East Africa workshop on single use plastics and plastic substitutes

11 - 12 April 2023
ALN House
, Kenya

Over 40 officials, including members of national parliaments and policymakers from seven East African Community (EAC) member countries met for a two-day event in Nairobi to discuss the negative effects of single-use plastics materials and explore ways to achieve a single-use plastic-free East Africa. The workshop was organized in collaboration with the Africa Legal Network, the FlipFlopi Project, the ICCF Group, the SMEP Programme, and UNCTAD. Key issues discussed included how national laws and experience can help build a regional harmonized policy in East Africa for reducing single-use plastics, material alternatives and substitutes, plastic trade, and regional approaches to tackling plastic pollution. A draft bill proposing regulations on unnecessary single-use plastic items and molecules was also discussed.  

Members of parliament of East African Countries, including representatives from the East African Assembly, are considering harmonizing national legislation on the manufacture, sale, and importation of certain non-essential single-use plastic items that are detrimental to the environment and livelihoods, especially those that cannot be recycled, and are easily substitutable. 

Participants were unanimous in their agreement to take a regional approach and committed to taking collective action to ensure all East Africans can thrive and be part of a sustainable transition to a more circular economy and a healthier environment.  

Hon. Rebecca Okwaci, Member of Parliament, South Sudan
Hon. Rebecca Okwaci, Member of Parliament, South Sudan

Hon. Rebecca Joshua Okwaci, a member of Parliament from South Sudan, highlighted the need to benefit from alternative materials such as jute, sisal or agricultural residues, which can promote innovations based on traditional knowledge. Hon. Françoise Uwumukiza, member of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) from Rwanda shared the success of Rwanda's comprehensive legislation to phase out single-use plastics.  According to Ms. Uwumukiza, Rwanda started examining plastic pollution problems back in 2003, with comprehensive legislation to phase out single-use plastics being adopted in 2019. Trade plays an important role, as many plastics came to Rwanda through formal or informal imports.  The key for Rwanda's success in reducing plastic pollution was the strong enforcement of the single use plastic ban, and public awareness of the benefits of a clean environment.  Today, Kigali is known as Africa’s cleanest city, she mentioned.  

Mr. Mamo Boru Mamo, Director General, Kenya National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA)

The Director of Kenya's environmental management authority (NEMA), Mr. Mamo Boru Mamo stressed the importance of national environmental management agencies in monitoring and policing policies on single-use plastics in East Africa. He mentioned that it is important legislators and environmental management agencies across East Africa collaborate to develop, implement, and constantly improve regulations on single-use plastics.  He also mentioned the experiences from the region can be building blocks for the international instrument against plastic pollution being negotiated by the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) under the United Nations. 

All MPs present agreed on the need for legislation on SUPs at a regional level, rather than at the national level. They explored proposing a SUP EAC law as a council bill at the EALA level and in parallel at country level as private bills by MPs, which would lead to discussions among country bodies. UNCTAD facilitated discussions on plastic substitutes, an important area for reducing plastics use, which provides significant social and environmental opportunities.  

The workshop provided stronger African voices and practical experiences into multilateral processes at the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) and at the World Trade Organization dialogue on plastics, where EAC countries are members.  

Event participants. 

This activity was part of the Sustainable Manufacturing and Environmental Pollution (SMEP) Programme, funded by the United Kingdom's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and has benefited from collaboration with the Ocean Economy programme.  

Africa Legal Network; FlipFlopi Project; ICCF
Sponsor / funding:

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