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Insight & Analysis - March 11, 2022

7 African Countries Sending People to Jail Because of Plastic Pollution

In Kenya, the importing, producing, or selling of any single-use plastic bags attract a fine of $40 000 and a four-year jail term.

The transition to waste recycling is still a struggle in Africa, as many cities are susceptible to environmental hazards. As a result, some African countries have banned the use of plastic to reduce pollution.

Since 2000, more than 30 countries in Africa have implemented anti-plastic bag regulations. However, a scarcity of drinking water in some African countries has generated a new plastics economy, notably in Sub-Saharan Africa, propelled by the increased demand for sachet water. 

According to the Earth Policy Institute, in 2014, about one trillion plastic bags were used every year in the world. These bags are made of polyethene which does not biodegrade. Since some African countries are still behind in recycling their byproducts, this plastic becomes pollution that we see on the side of the road or in the river. 

This causes problems not just for humans and the environment but also for animals and other creatures. As a result, some experts believe that the effect of the ban will be of little significance.

Although plastic is used every day in Africa, the government also recognises the damage it poses. Here are some African countries that have banned plastic bags to reduce pollution on the continent.


Of the countries that have banned plastic bags, Kenya has the harshest punishment for single-use plastic. The importing, producing, or selling of any single-use plastic bags attracts a fine of $40 000 and a four-year jail term. On the other hand, the use of one might result in a $500 fine for individuals.


Plastic bags have been banned in Rwanda since 2008, with strict policies that include luggage searches at the border where any plastic bags found are confiscated. Violators may receive a fine or a prison sentence in more severe cases. The regulation is said to be so draconian that it has generated an underground market for plastic bags.


In Tanzania, it is illegal to produce or import plastic sachets for carrying distilled and other alcoholic drinks into the mainland. Also, tourists are not permitted to carry plastic bags into the nation.

According to a report, anyone found producing or importing plastic bags and wrappings might face a fine of $430,000 (one billion Tanzanian shillings) or a two-year jail sentence.


According to Uganda’s Junior Minister for Environment, Beatrice Anywar, the ban on plastic bags is one of the steps agreed by the Cabinet to address the environmental issue. Section 2 of Uganda’s 2009 Finance Act stipulates that importing, local manufacturing, selling, or using plastic bags or bags made of polymers of ethene and polyethene is prohibited. 

However, the enforcement of the law has encountered a block due to a disagreement fueled by heavy lobbying by plastics firms and a lack of proper government regulation.


Senegal recently increased its anti-single-use plastic initiatives. In 2020, it announced a ban on single-use plastic water sachets and coffee cups. The prohibition was due to water security and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Water sachets, which most people rely on for clean water, are included, although they are still allowed. This, however, is to change after the pandemic is over.


In 2014, the government imposed a ban on non-biodegradable plastics, including importing, manufacturing, and selling single-use plastic goods. Based on a ministerial assessment, Cameroon discharges more than six million tonnes of plastic garbage per year.

However, the country has failed to enforce the ban due to a lack of infrastructure and methods for managing plastic garbage. Despite this, the government is eager to collaborate with key stakeholders to develop new solutions.

Côte d’Ivoire

The plastics industry fought vehemently against a ban on non-biodegradable plastic bags that was supposed to take effect in 2013. Plastics used in drinking water bags are included in the statute. The use of plastic packets for alcohol was also restricted in 2016.

READ ALSO: 5 African Countries with the Highest Carbon Emissions

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