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Tanzania has banned plastic bags from being brought into the country by all incoming visitors. What will that mean for Zanzibar, and our volunteers?

In a move that may affect anyone about to undertake volunteering in Zanzibar, the Tanzanian government has announced that, from 1st June 2019, all visitors entering the country will be banned from bringing in plastic bags. The move marks another large step in the move to ban all single-use plastics in the East African country, as it follows in the footsteps of several of its neighbours, including one of our other volunteer destinations, Kenya.

In 2017, Kenya banned plastic bags in a bid to curb major problems with plastic pollution and general waste, the impacts of which were clear to see. Volunteers travelling to Kenya with us often visit the Hilton Dumpsite, and see first-hand the sheer volume of plastic waste – largely made up of plastic drinking bottles – and its effect on the community.

Kenya’s ban was accompanied by some of the harshest punishments, but the effects of the ban were easily visible within the first year, with residents already reporting cleaner streets and waterways.

Tanzania’s motion to go plastic-free began in 2016 when the government warned manufacturers of plastic that they needed to diversify their line of business, with a view to implementing a full ban the following year. 2017 did see a ban on alcohol in plastic sachets, but a full ban on plastics failed to emerge.

Tanzania bans plastic bags as Kenya did back in 2017

Samson Zuberi, our In-Country Co-ordinator in Zanzibar, believes the Tanzanian public are ready for a full ban of single-use plastics, and that Tanzania can follow in the footsteps of Kenya and achieve just as much, if not more: “Kenya is a good example of the potential of the ban, and my congratulations to them for getting this far and making so much progress. I am in no doubt that Tanzania is going to follow the same path due to the seriousness of the problem and the political weight behind the idea.

The penalties seem tough, but the public are aware of the importance of the ban because the government spent about four months educating citizens through different platforms, including private and public media, as well as social media and some music festivals. So, I have a strong belief that Tanzania can achieve the same level of progress that Kenya has, and probably beyond that.”

Thankfully, Tanzania’s full ban on plastics looks imminent, with Tanzania’s Prime Minister, Kassim Majaliwa, announcing in April’s budget speech that 31st May would be the last day to use a plastic bag. This latest announcement, aimed at travellers entering the country, seems to add credence to his promise.

Tanzania bans plastic bags which is good news for Zanzibar

On the island of Zanzibar, plastic waste has long had an impact. The region relies on its popularity as a luxurious holiday destination, with snorkelling and other water-based activities proving to be hugely popular. Our volunteers, although primarily focused on volunteering during their trip, get to experience this with both the Ocean Safari and Zanzibar Islands Adventure Day as optional extra activities.

Samson says that, even on the island, it’s not just marine life that will benefit from the ban: “The impact of plastic waste is really frustrating and threatening to both land and marine wildlife. The future of the island’s life is at stake if no such ban is enforced by both Zanzibar & mainland Tanzania.

“The people of the Zanzibar depend on marine life so much. It was saddening to see that, for a long time, plastic waste was a leading factor in destroying both land and marine wildlife.”

In 2018, African Adventures increased its own efforts to minimise the plastic waste produced by both our company and our volunteers when we became a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) and aligned ourselves with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Tanzania bans plastic bags - African Adventures is a signatory of the United Nations Global Compact

Samson thinks African Adventures volunteers can play a big part too: “I would like to advise all the volunteers travelling to Zanzibar, as well as those travelling elsewhere, to support us by doing what is required by the ban and maybe even being great ambassadors for this campaign – by sharing their knowledge about the threat of plastic materials to our amazing world!”

Our UK team are currently learning to turn our day-to-day plastic waste into ecobricks, which is proving quite the challenge – some of the staff are even having a go at doing it at home as well. Mike Stock, our Graphic Designer, is one of them: “My partner and I have nearly finished our first ecobrick using a 1.5ltr bottle. It’s been quite challenging to get the required amount of plastic into the bottle to meet the suggested requirements, but we have found that slicing the plastic up with scissors first gets the best results – that and a really good stick for poking the plastic down, right from the off.”

As always, preparing our volunteers for every aspect of their trip is a huge part of what we do, so we will keep you up to date with the plastics ban as well as any other changes that might affect your trip. You can find all our advice on what to pack and what to expect in-country by logging in to My African Adventure and visiting the ‘Before you go’ section.

In the meantime, we are delighted that another of our destinations is taking steps to reduce its plastic pollution, and we will continue to investigate ways to reduce our own. If you have any suggestions, or success stories of your own, please get in touch- either via email, or over social media – we’d love to hear about them!

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