By Simon Bere
GOVERNMENT’s ban on kaylite use was effected despite the fact that the assertion that kaylite causes cancer is contestable.
However, that kaylite is difficult to recycle and is not biodegradable, is scientifically valid.
Nonetheless, there are major issues at play here. The first is food-related kaylite packaging and general non-food packaging. If the government felt strongly about protecting human health, then they should have effected an immediate kaylite ban on food-related packaging and allowed a longer period for the non-food packaging part to allow manufacturers room for a more strategic withdrawal.
This is not about ignoring environmental concerns nor is it about protecting kaylite manufacturers, but about being in tandem with the principles of sustainable development.
Private sector participation in environmental management and environmental issues is a critical success factor in sustainable development.
There are two major ways of participation, forced participation through legal instruments and voluntary participation driven largely by environmental education and genuine appreciation by the private sector to play their part through green business, environmental responsibility or corporate social responsibility.
Forced participation can work in many cases, but it is neither the best nor the most sustainable. Voluntary participation by the private sector is not easy for many reasons, but once it happens and where it happens, voluntary participation is the most effective and the most sustainable.
Zimbabwe’s kaylite ban exposes some major challenges and weaknesses in Zimbabwe’s environmental management policy.
First, it suggests an adversarial relationship between government and other stakeholders in general and the private sector in particular.
Second, it highlights an absence of all-inclusive national frameworks for environmental management, especially in terms of setting environmental standards and regulations.
Third, it exposes a lack of a national strategy for dealing with wastes and pollution.
Fourth, banning kaylite on the basis of health claims that have no scientific backing highlights a major challenge for making environmental decisions and, in particular, the understanding of major aspects of environmental management such as environmental toxicology and management of chemicals in the environment.
Fifth, it also highlights some weak involvement in environmental issues by industry and the private sector.
In some countries, a national government could be taken to court by those affected by the kaylite ban if the ban was effected in the way it was done in Zimbabwe. Why?
First, the government could be asked to produce evidence that kaylite causes cancer. It would be asked to bring forward the victims of kaylite poisoning together with their medical records.
Second, the government would be sued on the grounds of procedural justice, about the way the kaylite ban was effected. Foreign investors would also bring other trade agreements regarding their investment in kaylite manufacturing.
While the environmental concerns around kaylite are real, these concerns cannot be worse than the concerns with other benzene ring derivatives like plastic, oils and other industrial and medical chemicals. Some of these other materials could be higher candidates for ban than kaylite, based on their health impacts, production volumes, toxicity and non-biodegradability.
Simon Bere is chairperson of the Zimbabwe Chapter of the Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa and is contactable on email email@example.com or telephone +263774447438