ADDIS ABABA, May 21 (Xinhua) -- It's a ubiquitous item found strewn on the streets, used to wrap gifts, carry food items and store belongings, but plastic bags use in Ethiopia might be running out of favor.
Recently, three factories were closed in the country when they were found to be producing less than 0.3 milligram weight of plastic bags, a measurement deemed to be toxic to Ethiopia's environment.
Deyasa Leta deputy director of the Chemical and Construction Industries Development Institute at the Ethiopia Ministry of Industry (MoI) says the measure is part of Ethiopia's desire to maintain the society's health and the country's environment with the country's need to generate job and revenue for the country.
Yonas Abate, plastics and related materials directorate director at MoI, emphasized however that the closure in no way meant Rwandan style of complete ban on plastic bags is in the offing.
That's because plastic bag manufacturing firms have created employment opportunities for thousands and saves hundreds of millions of dollars that would've been lost through imports had the country not had the plants to produce plastic goods.
While environmentalists lament Ethiopia's obsession with plastic bags which they fault for polluting river systems, soil and choking city sewage system, Abate cautions that Ethiopia's fault is primarily in how it uses plastic bags, not the content itself.
Abate cities the example of China, the world's most populous nation with close to 1.4 billion people, having few problems with plastic bags.
"Ethiopia hasn't even reached 100 million people with Addis Ababa's population being only about 4 million, but a city like Shanghai, China with around 30 million people doesn't have a problem with plastic bags," he says, adding that China's efficient recycling and waste management system are the way to go.
"Lack of proper waste management and collecting mechanism is the main problem when it comes to plastic bags and closing industries while necessary at times isn't the first option" says Abate.
Leta highlights the fact that plastic products' general uses have intertwined with Ethiopians' day to day lives meaning while plastic bags use can run out of favor, it won't disappear from Ethiopia's streets any time soon.
"From our pants to bras, electric appliances to medicine packages, pipe fittings pass through plastic processes, with Ethiopia even starting to export some plastic products," says Abate, surmising that while Ethiopia may start to frown on plastic bags, its relationship with plastic products will continue for some time.