Zanzibar Cleans Up with Ban on Plastic Bags

Sea turtles may mistake plastic bags as jellyfish, a favorite food, causing them to drown. © TRAVIS STALEY

Sea turtles may mistake plastic bags as jellyfish, a favorite food, causing them to drown. © TRAVIS STALEY

By Lily Venizelos and Prue Robinson

In July 2006, Zanzibar’s government passed bold legislation to outlaw the importation and use of plastic bags, which have noticeably polluted the marine and terrestrial environment of the archipelago in recent years. Bags made of raffia palm have been suggested as an alternative. The ban is intended to aid preservation of the natural environment and to improve tourism, the islands’ top revenue-generator. Violators of the ban will be punished with a US$2,000 fine, up to six months in prison, or both. Given that pollution, especially plastic bags, is one of the most dangerous hazards to sea turtles worldwide according to the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group, Zanzibar’s bold new legislation marks a positive trend for sea turtles.