The journey to enforcing DRC’s plastic ban

The issue of plastic pollution is one of our most pressing environmental issues and calls for radical policies to be implemented by governments to solve this crisis. Determined to follow in the footsteps of other pioneering African countries, the Centre for Human Rights & Governance convened a plastic ban gathering with individuals from the ministry of environment, ministry of industry, ministry of commerce, private sector federations, educational bodies and civil society organisations  in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). 

The gathering aimed to advocate for the coherent enforcement of DRC’s single-use plastic ban. The two day conference, which commenced on 17 September 2020, saw participants carrying out a range of activities such as an examination of the current trends around SUPs in the DRC, as well as detailed discussions around the relevance of legalities which would allow for loopholes in the ban. 

Existing legislation on SUPs in the country prohibits the production, importation, marketing and use of plastic bags, films and other plastic packaging. This decree is applied to the sale of food, water and other plastic beverages in the DRC. According to Justin Mucuranyana, executive director of the Centre for Human Rights & Governance, the decree has several limitations as it makes exceptions to companies and institutions to import plastic. 

The Congolese government does not apply this decree soundly, as all types of plastics are imported and marketed in the DRC without any difficulty. My favorite part of this conference was the analysis of policy documents that ban single use plastics. During this exercise, participants listed several shortcomings of the documents and government authorities responded to this by agreeing to address these shortcomings through advocacy,”said Justin. 

Some of the outcomes during the gathering included a zero waste strategy which will  be put into  place measures to limit use of plastic packaging. The strategy will additionally aim to improve the collection and management infrastructure for waste, so that it can be effectively recycled. Furthermore, the provincial ministry of environment has promised to encourage Congolese industries to create 100% reusable and recyclable plastic products by changing the design patterns of plastic products.

“This conference does not end the battle against the plastic pollution crisis in DRC. However, it opens a long struggle already undertaken through permanent advocacy to seek rapid change in the implementation of the ban on SUPs. We hope that authorities will take strict measures to respond to our calls to put the ban on SUPs into practice,”said Justin. 

John Ciza from the Front Commun Pour La Protection De L’environnement Et Des Espaces Protégés (FCPEEP) said that the gathering unified different actors within the public, private and and civil society sectors, where they collectively shared their experiences and agreed to take joint strategies to fight against plastic pollution. 

“If social actors at all levels do not actively tackle the fight against plastic pollution, Congo will be exposed to serious environmental and health problems. This will compromise the implementation of the sustainable development goals in  many areas in the country.”