Nov. 21 - A law banning the production and use of plastic bags in Ivory Coast is set to take effect from November 23. Consumer advocates accuse the government of rushing to enforce the law without giving the public and those who work in the plastics industry any alternatives. Ben Gruber reports.
In Abidjan plastic bags dominate the view. Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan, says they are a menace. (SOUNDBITE) (French) DANIEL KABLAN DUNCAN, IVORY COAST PRIME MINISTER SAYING: "As you have all noticed, plastic bag waste has become a major problem in Abidjan. They are littered all over the streets, they clog the drainage systems, especially when it rains, causing flooding. We need to find a way to stop this type of pollution, because plastic does not disappear over a period of a year or two - it takes centuries." That's why Duncan and his government have passed a law to ban the bags, although not everyone believes it's a good idea.. Business leaders like Hassan Cisse whose company Aqua Ivoire sells water in plastic bags, says the government has offered no alternatives. (SOUNDBITE) (French) HASSAN CISSE, HEAD OF AQUA-IVOIRE FACTORY SAYING: "We find ourselves dealing with a decision that came out of nowhere, a decision that has shocked us. This decision will have repercussions on the sector, on the economic and social level and I am not sure it will change anything on an environmental level." That argument is shared by environmentalists. They say biodegradable materials are always preferable but that the government should improve its garbage collection services before banning a product that most residents need. Bruce Delagneau is the head of the environmental group Amistad. (SOUNDBITE) (French) BRICE DELAGNEAU, HEAD OF ENVIRONMENTAL ORGANISATION AMISTAD SAYING: "Today, we have huge problems linked to sanitary conditions. So what we need to do is ensure that the sanitary conditions are improved, instead of banning plastics because we could not find a solution to the sanitary conditions." The debate is expected to continue, even as the ban comes into effect on November 23rd.