Namibia Plastics, which is expected to start operating within the next few months, says it is unmoved by the introduction of a levy on plastic carrier bags and ban on the importation and domestic production of plastic bags containing Carbonic Acid Calcium Salt.
Carbonic Acid Calcium Salt is a chemical which can cause skin irritation, eye damage and respiratory irritation and may cause cancer.
Namibia Plastics CEO, Johan Struwig, told the Windhoek Observer that although the company was unware that the government would announce the ban when it invested N$95 million in the Brakewater plant, its plant will be manufacturing industrial plastics for companies and not carrier bags for retailers.
“We are not really focusing on retail plastics,” he said of the plant, which will be producing plastic products for companies like Namibia Breweries and Ohorongo Cement.
“We are going to specialise in industrial plastics for products like salt and sugar. Our customers are factories. For example, Ohorongo Cement has been importing the plastics it wraps around its cement bags from Germany, but we will be producing that now. We want to make sure that we are not losing those jobs to South Africa or Germany.”
The plant will employ about 42 workers.
Struwig said Namibia Plastics was established to fill the gap for industrial plastics. He said the plant will use the latest technology imported from Europe.
Fifty percent of plastics used in Namibia are imported, mainly from South Africa.
Other clients for Namibia Plastics will be Bokomo; Namib Poultry Industries; Namib Mills; Namib Foam; Coca-Cola; Etosha Fisheries and Seawork Fish Processors.
The investors in the plant include the Development Bank of Namibia and Spitz Capital, a Regulation 29 compliant unlisted investment vehicle, with the Government Institutions Pension Fund as principal investor.
However, Plastic Packaging, which has been producing retail plastics for 30 years, said in response to a query by the Windhoek Observer, that the ban will have a major impact on its revenue.
“Consumers will use fewer bags and …the industry will have to adapt and offer products and solutions …which have the well-being of our country at heart,” Plastic Packaging said in response to e-mailed questions.
It said the local plastic industry was, however, fortunate because it offers a wide range of products to all market segments, falling outside the sphere of the single-use shopping bags.
“It is our view that single-use bags imported from South Africa and other countries to Namibia will decrease,” the company said, adding that producers of packaging material in neighbouring countries seldom take responsibility for the environmental effects of the products they export to Namibia.
Plastic Packaging said it has been working closely with government, the Environmental Investment Fund (EIF) and Recycle Namibia Forum (RNF) to find a suitable solution to reduce the impact of single-use plastic bags.
“The announcement by Cabinet is in line with what we have proposed through these forums and Plastic Packaging welcomes the decision and will support government to reduce the effect on our environment.
“We specifically welcome the ban on the import and domestic production of bags containing Carbonic Acid Calcium Salt as this additive to plastics bags renders the bags unsuitable for recycling purposes.”
It said alternative packaging like paper bags, polypropylene bags and cotton bags are not long-term solution to reduce the carbon footprint.
The company’s recycling plant at Okahandja, Namibia Polymer Recyclers, produces second generation raw material from its waste which is used to produce plastic products like black refuse bags and agricultural irrigation pipes.