Director of Environmental Affairs ( EAD) and Acting Director General of the Malawi Environmental Protection Authority (MEPA), Taonga Mbale Luka is worried the delay by the courts to make a determination on their application to vacate an injunction against the ban of thin plastics is worsening the plastic pollution in the country.
Mbale was speaking at the launch of two projects aimed at strengthening knowledge and capacity to prevent and reduce releases of plastic waste in Malawi and Zimbabwe and developing a regional strategy towards the environmentally sound management and control of transboundary movements of plastic waste in the SADC Region.
In July 2021, Golden Plastics obtained an injunction to pave the way for a case in which they are challenging the 2015 plastics regulations. An inter partes hearing was only possible on February 3rd of this year, but nearly three months down the line, Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Lovemore Chikopa is yet to deliver a ruling.
Luka said the prolonged injunction has given the manufacturers an opportunity to engage in mass production of thin plastics which are having adverse impacts on the environment, adding it will be very difficult and expensive on the part of Malawians to repair the damage being caused to the country’s ecosystems.
She, however, assured Malawians that as much as now they can’t implement the ban because of the court order, the department, together with the Ministry of Justice, is pushing the case until the matter is closed. Luka also reported that the department is also happy that a copy of the supreme court ruling that overturned another injunction obtained by plastic manufacturers has now been made available to the ministry of justice two years after it was delivered.
"On the one hand, I am very worried that the case has taken so long, but on the other hand, we are happy that the supreme court ruling has been made available to us after a long wait. "We think the ruling is very key for the case, and we are making sure that the current judge gets a copy so that we can set good precedence moving into the future," said Luka.
Commenting on the two projects, Luka reasoned that the launch is consistent with the 2019 Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, where governments amended the Basel Convention to include plastic waste in a legally-binding framework to make global trade in plastic waste more transparent and better regulated.
Conducting a plastic waste inventory, assessing the current legal and institutional framework for plastic waste management, strengthening knowledge and capacity among policy- and decision-makers to prevent and minimize the generation of plastic waste, conducting a plastic waste pilot project, and engaging in communication, training, and awareness-raising are key components of the project.
"Since these projects commenced in December 2021, the Environmental Affairs Department has conducted an initial desk study on plastic waste inventory, conducted a desk study and developed an assessment report on plastic waste legislation and institutions involved in the management of this waste, and also conducted an initial desk study of the environmentally sound management of plastic waste and carried out a data gathering exercise of organizations involved in plastic waste recycling in order to identify potential pilot projects that Malawi can conduct," added Luka.
Speaking at the same event, deputy executive Secretary for the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm conventions (BRS) secretariat, Carlos Martin-Novella, hailed Malawi for being a good example in the region and for launching the two projects a few weeks after the United Nations Assembly on the Environment (UNAE) adopted a resolution initiating a process to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution. Novella said: "It is a privilege for us at the BRS to provide all the support we can in helping Malawi go yet further in addressing plastic pollution, including through the implementation of the Plastic Waste Amendments. In addition to ensuring that transboundary movements of plastic waste are more transparent and better regulated, the parties must take steps to ensure the environmentally sound management of plastic waste as well as to reduce the generation of plastic waste to a minimum. "
Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy Executive Director Herbert Mwalukomo hailed the government for introducing the two projects, but noted that such projects must be backed by local funding to make them sustainable. On the other hand, the National Coordinator of the Coordination Union for the Rehabilitation of the Environment (CURE), Reginald Mumba has asked the courts to expedite the case as it has the potential to dent Malawi’s image at regional level if manufacturers continue to produce the outlawed plastics in Malawi when globally, all countries are scaling up means of reducing production of all kinds of plastics.