THE BIODEGRADABLE PLASTIC BAGS MARKET IN EAST AFRICA
All the three markets of East Africa are currently enforcing a ban on the manufacture and importation of plastic/polythene bags in a concerted effort to protect the environment and natural resources.
Uganda first banned the use of single-use plastics in 2007 but it wasn’t until Parliament passed the National Environment Bill in 2017 that enforcement of a ban of all polythene bags below 30 microns came into force.
In 2017, Kenya also barred single-use plastic bags when it enacted the Environmental Management and Coordination Act 2017 with severe penalties for firms caught manufacturing, selling, importing or using single-use plastics.
Tanzania also started enforcing a total ban on the production, importation, sale and use of all single-use petroleum-based plastic shopping bags starting 1st June 2019.
While the ban on use of plastics has affected manufacturers across the three East African countries, including loss of jobs as occurred in Kenya where over 60,000 direct and indirect job losses occurred, the ban also presented opportunities for both existing and new entrepreneurs to offer new solutions. One of the biggest opportunities that’s been identified for firms entering is the production or importation of biodegradable, compostable single use shopping bags. The demand for single use shopping bags is so high compared to supply that 70% of plastic shopping bags are imported in Tanzania.
However, with plastic bags being phased out, alternative solutions such as Biodegradable, compostable bags present a massive opportunity.
Global Plastic Bags and Sacks Market Industry Analysis and Opportunity Assessment from 2018–2026 indicates that in terms of revenue, the global plastic bags and sacks market is estimated to expand at a CAGR of 3.0% during the forecast period, owing to numerous factors like current ban by some countries to reduce environmental pollution .
Plastic bags and sacks are containers made of thin, flexible, plastic film of biodegradable or non-biodegradable materials. The plastic bags and sacks are commonly used in the retail stores or supermarkets for packaging of products and find its application in retail and consumer, institutional services and other industrial applications.
"The demand for single use shopping bags is so high compared to supply that 70% of plastic shopping bags in Tanzania are imported" 
In the East African context where statistics are available, 86,000 biodegradable plastic bags are sold in a busy city like Nairobi on a daily basis with a population of around 3.5 million inhabitants, while 24 million bags are sold on a monthly basis in a country with a population of around 51 million. The 2018 census population of Dar es Salam is around 4.5 million and Tanzania has a population of 59 million. Population wise, Tanzania is bigger than Kenya.
The ban on plastic bags
As mentioned previously, there has been a gradual ban of non-degradable plastic polybags in Eastern Africa with a population of around 443,854,008. All three countries currently have some sort of ban on the production, importation, sale and use of all single-use non-biodegradable plastic shopping bags. The market is now growing in the right direction. Demand will always be higher than supply especially for Tanzania.
Producing 100% of the raw materials in East Africa will help the region achieve its green economy goals and presents a massive opportunity for both local and foreign manufacturers of alternative plastic packaging solutions.
One company in Tanzania is already trialing technology that can produce Biodegradable, Compostable Resins (BCR) needed to produce Biodegradable, Compostable Bags (BCB) using starch sources such as cassava.
Unlike normal plastic bags with a chemical structure of that makes them resistant to many natural processes of degradation, compostable bags made of natural plant starch, break down readily in a composting system through microbial activity to form compost and do not produce any toxic material. In fact, biodegradable plastic breaks down 60% and more within 180 days or less compared to traditional plastics, which take around 1,000 years to break down.
Opportunity analysis for plastic bag alternatives
The demand for single use shopping bags is so high compared to supply that 70% of plastic shopping bags are imported in Tanzania . However, with plastic bags being phased out, alternative solutions such as biodegradable, compostable bags present a massive opportunity. According to research conducted by our professional market researchers in Uganda, in order to continue in the plastics business, many wholesale traders across the East African region are looking for a sustainable way to procure bags that are similar in use and price to plastic bags. To meet the growing demand of alternative bags, manufacturers will either have to invest in the production of biodegradable, compostable bags or importation of paper, non-woven and cloth bags.
However, the cost of non-woven and cloth bags is three and ten times higher, respectively, compared to plastic bags. In comparison, the cost of biodegradable, compostable bags (BCB) is three times less than that of plastic bags. We thus forecast that any company that enters the East African BCB market will likely capture more than 10% of the market share every year as its likely to be among the first in the market, producing and selling biodegradable compostable plastic shopping bags. Our forecasts are based on opportunity analysis and demand forecasting tools our research analysts use inhouse. If you are looking to get into any market in East Africa including the biodegradable plastic packaging market, then look for professional market researchers in Uganda, Kenya or Tanzania. Stop using intuition for important business decisions. Get quality market research now.
But while paper bags are similar in price to biodegradable, compostable bags (BCB), however, the culture of using paper shopping bags is not common in the East African region and secondly, paper bags cannot withstand heavy and wet products. In some supermarkets such as Carrefour in Uganda, paper bags are used to bag mostly small itemed groceries.
Furthermore, in cases of paper bags with handles, the price per bag is higher (USD 0.1277) than biodegradable, compostable bags (USD 0.07281) of the same size, and carries only 4 kg compared to 8kg that can be carried in biodegradable, compostable bags (BCB).
According to Stanford Magazine, despite being biodegradable, paper bags also require four times the amount of water compared to plastic bags, as well as high fuel which results in cutting down of trees. Paper bags should also be reused at least three times to negate their higher climate-warming potential compared to plastic bags. An average cotton shopping bag would have to be reused 131 times to break even with a plastic bag, in terms of the climate impact of producing each bag. Nonwoven polypropylene bag being less costly than cotton, would to be reused only 11 times to break even with conventional plastic.
In the end, changing habits of end users to reuse will make the greatest difference, however it is a task that is practically difficult to implement, thus biodegradable, compostable bags (BCB) can be introduced with little or no differences in usage while at the same time maintain zero environmental footprint.
Secondly, importing readymade biodegradable, compostable resins (BCR) from Asia cost local plastic bag manufacturing companies 5.25$ per kg landing cost in East Africa. So, any company that can locally manufacture and supply BCR at less than this price is likely to generate high demand.
And with covid-19 disrupting global supply chains, the importance of local production has taken on national security importance. While consumer awareness of eco-friendly plastic especially biodegradable, compostable single use shopping bags is still low across the region, favorable government regulations and bans of plastic bags, coupled with the increasing focus on environmental protection means BCB manufacturers have significant opportunities not just in packaging, which is the largest end-use industry but also in new end-use industries such as electronics, medical, and automotive.
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 . https://www.transparencymarketresearch.com/pressrelease/plastic-bag-sack-market.htm [ .https://www.businessdailyafrica.com/news/ea/tanzania/Tanzania-weighing-effects-of-banning-plastic-materials/4003154-4301644-5w3jf3/index.html [ .https://www.businessdailyafrica.com/news/ea/tanzania/Tanzania-weighing-effects-of-banning-plastic-materials/4003154-4301644-5w3jf3/index.html