Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Retailers rake in millions as gov’t fails to collect plastic levy

Retailers and super stores have no right to brand the plastic bags that they sell to the consumers. Once the consumer has bought the plastic bag it’s their property, they are not paid for advertising the branding on the bags as they carry the plastic bags around.

This was said by University of Botswana Senior Lecturer in the Department of Environmental Science, also Somarela Tikologo board chair Dr Eagilwe Segosebe.

He said that since the introduction of plastic levy in 2007, retailers and super stores have enjoyed the error by government not to collect the plastic levy. The levy is estimated to have run into millions of Pula and still in the hands and control of retailers.

Dr Segosebe argues that the plastic levy is not the only thing that government and retailers have stolen from consumers. He is of the view that retailers are not supposed to brand the plastic bags and sell them to consumers because consumers are not paid for advertising these retailers when they carry their plastic bags around.

He gave an example of returnable Coke bottles, which after buying a soft drink one is allowed to take the bottles back and claim some money back.

“This is so because these bottles are branded and where else can you use them? Coca Cola in this case is giving consumers that opportunity to sell the bottles back to them. The same thing should be happening with plastics. Consumers should buy them and be given an opportunity to take them back and claim their money,” he said.

Dr Segosebe said consumers are robbed off their money in many ways while retailers collect all the profits.

“We have approached Consumer Affairs about the matter. We were surprised that they didn’t know about the plastic levy as they have always thought plastics were the retailers’ commodity. This is wrong, even the Ministry of Trade knows nothing about the levy,” he said.

To save face, government has been working around the clock to eliminate plastic bags. On Friday, the Department of Waste Management and Pollution Control convened an urgent meeting at which they sought to ban plastic bags.

Sources close to the matter revealed that there is no how government can blame the retailers as they benefitted from government’s errors.

“The levy that was supposed to be collected by government is now being enjoyed by retailers as profit. It was proposed that the levy should be collected from the retailers starting from the date the levy was introduced’ but government has no structures to collect the levy and no one would blame them for having used the money for something else,” sources revealed.

The government’s big headache is whether to allow retailers to continue enjoy the plastic levy for their own benefit or not, hence the proposed ban on plastic bags. 

“The main reason why government wants to impose a ban on plastic bags is to clear out the whole mess surrounding the plastic levy. As it is, government is clueless on the levy, does not even know how much in levy the retailers owe. They don’t even know which retailers are charging for plastic bags. The whole thing is a mess hence the move to ban plastics,” sources revealed to this publication.

The levy was expected to fund environmental projects but now it’s benefiting business due to an error on the part of government.

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