This post comes from the Community Liaison Office of the US Embassy. Thanks for the info and for breaking it down for us!
On January 1st, Senegal’s new plastic bag law went into effect. Simply stated, you cannot produce, import, posses, distribute, or use plastic bags that are thinner than 30 microns. To break that down into American-speak, 30 microns is .03 millimeter, or about the thickness of an average trashcan liner. Regular Ziplock bags are usually around 50 microns.
Violations of this new law carry stiff penalties: up to two years in jail and fines up to 20,000,000CFA. That’s a lot of zeros.
Why the ban on thin bags?
The goal is to reduce the amount of trash that piles up from single-use plastic bags. The general thought is thicker bags can be re-used. As well, the “thinner the bag is, the higher is the probability of its breakdown and mixing with the soil, which seriously deteriorates the soil and marine fauna.”
What does this mean for you?
For starters, it means shops and markets around your neighborhood will be less likely to have plastic bags for you to carry your groceries. (Casino Supermarkets have already stopped offering plastic bags at checkout, but instead have re-usable ones for sale.) So when you head out the door to go shopping, you need to remember your own bags.
It also means there is a new market for re-usable shopping bags, such as those available for purchase at Lou Bess? Farmers Market or from Fatou Jobe of iMADI and Djiby at Malika Monkeys.
But mainly, we hope it means less pollution in our beautiful host country. It will take some time to implement this new law, but we can all help move this along. For example, the US Embassy banned plastic bags some time ago, and the commissary has been plastic-bag free for over two years.
However, some vendors continue to use the thin bags. We ask that you help us enforce these rules and respect the laws of our host government by refusing to take a plastic bag from any vendor. Bring your own reusable shopping bags for fruits and vegetables. For seafood and cheeses, you can bring a cooler or a sealable plastic container. Yes, that is less convenient and requires some forethought. But this is a change we CAN make.