From Arusha to Dar es Salaam, over every 5 mins walk you will find a plastic bag (polythene) on the road or in a drainage leading to pollution. In Tanzania, a devastating amount of over a million polythene plastic bags are used each year. Only a small percentage of these plastic bags are used again and often are thrown away and end up littering beaches, where they may take 1,000 years to biodegrade and so they are harmful to the biodiversity. The problem of pollution has become quite severe that the Tanzania government has embarked on National cleaning exercises and a planned ban on plastic bags. In 2013, the government enforced a law that banned the production, distribution, import/export and most importantly the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags.
The ban was imposed to reduce the amount of thin polythene plastic bags of less than 30 microns being manufactured, as they are non-recyclable. However, these new regulations particularly after President John Magufuli ordered to celebrate Independence Day festivities on December 9, 2015 by cleaning homes, compounds, streets, roads and offices barely scratch the surface and have not been very effective and entrepreneurs around the country have been seeking solutions to handling the challenge.
Shabbirali Mussa is one of few individuals in Tanzania who have taken the problem of pollution serious and has created a solution in Eco – Friendly Bags Ltd. Founded in 2016 by three visionary youths upon hearing the impending government ban on plastic bags the following year, Eco – Friendly Bags Ltd manufactures a broad variety of non-woven environment friendly bags.
Shabbirali and his team took the initiative to provide a singular product. One made out recyclable, biodegradable and reliable material. Eco – Friendly Bags set out to achieve Sustainable Development Goals particularly Goal 12 (to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns), Goal 14 (conserve and sustainably use of the Oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development) and Goal 15 (sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss) as well as start a national movement towards environmental sustainability and eco-friendly habits.
Faced with challenges of finance and very little information on running his business, Shabbirali in 2017 applied for the TEF programme and has witnessed business growth since then “After receiving the seeed capital from TEF, we have secured office space, and managed to get an affordable bag making machine which produces non-woven bags, By doing this, we have had a chance to grown our business and hired 5 staff, expanded our operations from trading to manufacturing of non-woven environment friendly bags and have hit turnovers to $20,000 in 3 months after receiving the seed capital.”
For Shabbirali and his team, business is a call to creating solution and this he has done effectively as he works towards increasing his capacity in the coming months.