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‘The law is silent’, Trade

Business

…As more Supermarkets start selling plastic bags

Mojabeng Moalosi

Basotho customers have been subjected to buying plastic bags by some chain stores operating in the country despite unavailability of a law allowing such sales, Newsday has learned.

‘Mantlatse Maile, spokesperson of the Ministry of Trade and Industry told to this paper that Lesotho has no regulations allowing sale of plastic bags by any outlets.

Maile said the ministry’s Consumer Unit department has received complaints from customers and has since approached the said stores.

“We have dealt with the complaint before after it was reported in our Consumers Unit office, and because the country has not yet made legal provisions for such, the ministry was forced to send inspectors to those reported stores to first verify and order them to stop. We were of the impression that the matter had been put to bed,” she said.

She, however, clarified that the law does not really speak on whether or not plastic bags should be sold.

“Existing laws are silent on whether or not plastic bags should be sold or not, but as the ministry we do not approve of plastic bags being sold,” she noted.

She indicated that franchise chain supermarkets that often fall for selling plastic bags claim they are following the same routine as their sister stores in other countries.

“It is very unfortunate because as much as the law is somewhat silent on the issue, the supermarkets cannot just decide to follow other countries’ laws in Lesotho. As they have been advised before to stop selling plastic bags, this is just a reminder because selling plastic bags will not benefit Basotho,” she said.

She however explained that the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture’s (MTEC) Environmental Department was in the process of reviewing regulations with a plan to have the sale of plastic bags legalised in the country.

Meanwhile, approached for a comment, Moleboheng Petlane, Pollution Control Officer with the MTEC’s Environment Department, reiterated the fact that Lesotho has no laws preventing shops from selling plastic bags while also confirming that they are in the process of changing that.

“Plastic bags are the products of those supermarkets, they make them available so they can make profit off them and with the unavailability of laws in the country, we can’t really stop the supermarkets from selling them.

“We have also conducted studies from other countries and realised that if we can sell plastic bags, we will reduce the environment’s pollution because plastic bags are the worst pollutants. If plastics are sold, people will value them and that will in turn reduce pollution,” she said.

She added, “We are recommending for it and we are still working on regulations that will support that.”

For his part, Nkareng Letsie Executive Director of Consumer Protection Association, in a separate interview, rallied behind the chain stores’ move to sell plastic bags, saying after the stores have made profits from selling plastic bags, they should give a certain percentage to the MTEC.

“After making profits from plastic bags, that money should go to the department of environment. It is wrong if supermarkets that have started selling plastic bags have not started making their contribution.

He added, “The consumers should learn how to use shopping bags because in other countries users who care about the environment have long stopped using plastic bags.”

He reiterated the fact that once plastic bags are sold, people will begin to see value in them and rather reuse them than just throw them away after single use.

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