Published: Monday 31 December 2001

South Africa has banned the use of thin plastic bags. And retailers of these bags are a worried lot as they fear that it would wipe out their retail profits.

The South African cabinet recently approved a ban to prohibit anyone from distributing grocery bags thinner than 80 micrometres. The ban would be effective from January 2003.

On the one hand, Pick n' Pay and Shoprite -- two of the country's leading retailers -- say the ban, if implemented, would seriously hit profits leading to job losses in the packaging industry. The companies believe that the ban would affect the poorest consumer. On the other hand, Onkgopotse Tabane, head of communications at the Environmental Affairs and Tourism Ministry says that there are other countries who have moved far more ahead of South Africa in using environmental-friendly packaging alternatives.

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