In a 2019 article A viewpoint on the plastic bag charge in England: who is it benefiting? I pointed out that “The Millennium Development Goals (elapsed in 2015) have come and gone and since been replaced with an expanded and extended set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), numbering 17 in total.”
Of these 17 goals, seven focus on living within our means. Indeed goals 11-17 all emphasise this – from the need for Sustainable Cities and Communities (Goal 11), to Responsible consumption and production (Goal 12), Life Below Water (Goal 14), and the need for Partnerships for the goals (Goal 17).
Through its Blue Charter, the Commonwealth has been proactive in affirming its collective commitment (Goal 17) to preserving and nurturing the world’s oceans (Goal 14) – including tackling marine plastic pollution, which the ACU is supporting through its Blue Charter Fellowships scheme.
That article was against the backdrop of co-authored academic study, “Are retailers ‘bagging’ the carrier bag levy in England? An exploratory enquiry,” which was also published in the same year in the Journal of Environmental Management. In that article, we examined the business impact of the single-use carrier bag legislation in England requiring retailers to charge consumers for their ‘misdemeanours’.
We posited that while the study acknowledges that the legislation impacts three key stakeholders – government, retailers, and consumers, its primary focus was from the perspective of retailers and how this stakeholder group may have benefitted from the charge. For retailers, the charge provides an avenue for bolstering their carbon footprint as consumers are expected to reuse their plastic bags (e.g., bags for life) as they now have to pay for them.
Come in Rwanda
Forget about the controversial 5p charge which the big 4 in the UK have placed on price points ranging from 5p in Tesco to £1.50 at SportsDirect, Rwanda is a completely different environment where the word plastic has ceased to exist.
Again, you may wish to forget that tax on sin, i.e., carrier bag charges as paper rules the roost in this country – from takeaways to pharmacy dispensing, and more instructive supermarkets carrier bags that brown bag is a familiar sight right across the country – and backed by law.
Now here’s a public statement from the official VisitRwanda website:
“Please refrain from bringing plastic bags to Rwanda. Banned by law since 2008, any plastic bags in your luggage will be confiscated at the airport or other point of entry.”
“As a country we strive to protect, safeguard and promote the environment – a matter which is written into our constitution and carefully observed by our citizens, who all participate in a community service called Umuganda on the last Saturday of every month.”
“We respectfully request that all visitors help us keep Rwanda the cleanest country in Africa and dispose of all litter responsibly.”
Evidently, Rwanda is championing the African march towards achieving SDG12 – Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. Hopefully we would have another African nation feature in no distant time as this sustainability journey gathers pace across the space.
Conclusions and Next Steps
Ensuring that this is a collective effort requires the need for education, and especially higher education institutions, embed this into their curriculum. Going forward, therefore, it is worth restating some of the evidenced indicators from the available thirteen, i.e., 12.1.1 Number of countries with sustainable consumption and production (SCP) national action plans or SCP mainstreamed as a priority or a target into national policies; and 12.8.1 Extent to which (i) global citizenship education and (ii) education for sustainable development (including climate change education) are mainstreamed in (a) national education policies; (b) curricula; (c) teacher education; and (d) student assessment.
Jory, S. R., Benamraoui, A., Madichie, N. O., Ruiz-Alba, J. L., & Chistodoulou, I. (2019). Are retailers “bagging” the carrier bag levy in England? An exploratory enquiry. Journal of Environmental Management, 233, 845-853.
Madichie, N. (2019, June 12) A viewpoint on the plastic bag charge in England: who is it benefiting? Association of Commonwealth Universities, https://www.acu.ac.uk/news/a-viewpoint-on-the-plastic-bag-charge-in-england-who-is-it-benefiting/
About the Author
Nnamdi O. Madichie is currently Professor of Marketing & Entrepreneurship at the University of Kigali. He is also Research Fellow at the Bloomsbury Institute in London. Professor Madichie is a Fellow of both the Chartered Institute of Marketing (FCIM) and the Chartered Management Institute (FCMI) — both of which demonstrate his recognition by UK professional bodies of international repute. He is also a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SHEA) of England & Wales. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org