Revisiting the plastic policies in Cameroon

Buea, Southwest Regional Capital of Cameroon is experiencing a huge littering of plastic bags and bottles all over the main street, likewise gutters. Some have even blocked gutters, there by distorting the drainage system. It appears the situation will get out of hand given that the waste disposal company is barely managing to do their job, especially in some towns in the crisis hit Northwest and southwest regions of Cameroon. One needs not to be told of the effects of this dysfunction to the environment.

The picture painted of Buea above is the unfortunate representation of what most cities in Cameroon look like; plastics, especially non-biodegradable ones are taking over our streets. The reason for this take over by plastics is owing to the fact that, Cameroonians have refused to go green, neither in marketing nor in shopping. Our old habits have refused to go and generations to come will pay for it.

Five years ago, the government of Cameroon introduced a ban on
non-biodegradable plastic papers, the main facilitators of shopping in Cameroon. The move was saluted by many Cameroonians given the effects these plastics have on the environment. It was equally viewed as a silent invitation for Cameroonians to go green be it in shopping or in marketing.
Green shopping, for those of us who are curious to know, is learning how to buy smartly and keeping environmental consideration in mind while green marketing on the other hand is the selling of products or services based on their environmentally friendly nature. That is the products are produced in an environmentally friendly way or they are environmentally friendly to say the least.

The question we should be asking now is, Can Cameroonians go green, be it in shopping or in marketing? The answer to this question may not be universally accepted by Cameroonians, but one thing is for certain, the effects of environmental degradation and to the larger extend climate change are glaring.

Immediately after the ban on the use of plastic bags in Cameroon went to force, there was an immediate response by those selling especially staple food such as corn fufu, who immediately switched to the use of plantain leaves as an alternative to the contraband. Sheets of books likewise newspapers were put to use by most shop attendants. It appeared Cameroonians were embracing the new system whole heartedly and the government needed just to enforce the ban to the later. Moreover, the government should have erected collection points where plastic bottles will be collected and recycled or dispose properly. Five years down memory lane, Cameroon is gradually returning back to its pre-2014 state, “Land of Plastics”.

The importance of green shopping and green marketing cannot be over emphasized. Medics emphasize that putting hot food in plastic bags is detrimental to our health. What about the environment? Studies show that non-degradable plastic bags can last in the soil for over a thousand years. Its enormous dumping into the sea and land eventually creates problems for generations to come. Aquatic creatures, that man partly depend on for survival mistake these plastics for food and this result to their death in numbers.

Another common hazardous effect of plastic in our society is their ability to distort the drainage systems, especially when dumped in gutters and water ways in their numbers. This is one of the main causes of flood in major cities in Cameroon. Such Dumping is very common in Douala for example though efforts have been made to recycle it.

The few effects of plastics outline above silently prick our consciences on why we should go green be it in marketing and in shopping. If you compare the number of days a plantain leave or a sheet of paper will take to decay to the number of years a mere plastic will take to undergo the same process, you will agree with me that we have to go green. No matter what opinion you hold about plastics, plastics are an existential threat to our being here on earth, and we can minimize this threat by embracing green marketing and green shopping.