Promoting a shift towards sustainable consumption of plastic


23 September 2022

  1. Introduction

The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) in collaboration with the Africa Institute for Environment Law[1] (AIEL) is planning a digital campaign to raise awareness on Plastic Regulation in Zimbabwe. The campaign seeks to use three elements to effectively convey the message on plastics to the public and attain a shift towards sustainable consumption of plastic:

  • Information – Accessible, relevant, comparable, and timely information about the sustainability of plastic products and packaging is essential to enable sustainable consumption.
  • Motivation – Beyond simply being aware of the problem, individuals need to feel that the plastic waste problem is relevant to them, understand specifically what they can do about it, and be prepared to make different choices in their plastic consumption.
  • Opportunity – Individuals cannot shift toward sustainable consumption of plastic when they do not have sustainable options and alternatives. Companies can enable sustainable consumption of plastic by designing products and packages to maximize circularity. Governments can also use policy to ban or tax unsustainable items and require a minimum level of sustainability or circularity in others.
  • Background

Plastic pollution has become one of the most pressing global environmental issues adversely affecting the natural ecosystems. Not only are plastic ingestion and ghost-nets serious biodiversity threats to numerous mammals, reptiles, birds and fish, but micro-plastic has also begun to enter the human food-supply-system through consumption. Plastics are generally derived from oil – a non-renewable resource. Over 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been made since mass production began in the 1950s. However, many plastic products are used once, or for a short period of time, before being thrown away. When not disposed off correctly it can cause serious environmental problems. The material is very slow to decompose (from 20 to 500 years). Globally, it is estimated that between 5 to 13 million tonnes of plastic waste ends up in the sea each year. Plastic pollution poses severe risks to the ecosystems. Plastic pollution is a major contributor to the triple planetary crisis. For instance, plastic pollution contributes to climate change as only 16% of plastic waste is recycled.[2] The majority of non-recyclable plastic ends up in our rivers and oceans. This not only poses a threat to the animals and plants whose habitats have been transformed into floating garbage patches,[3] but also to the climate, as plastic releases greenhouse gases as it decomposes. Open burning of waste is also common in many parts of the world and is a major source of air pollution. It is estimated that by 2050 greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastic production, use and disposal would account for 15 percent of allowed emissions, under the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C.[4] Furthermore, plastic pollution harms more than 800 marine and coastal species through ingestion, entanglement, and other dangers.[5] Notwithstanding these dangers, the world plastic production continue to increase. In 2017, the world plastic pollution was sitting at 348 million tonnes, and this is expected to double by 2040.[6]

  • Objectives of the Campaign

By raising awareness and building community around plastic marine litter across the focus countries, the intentions are:

  1. To increase public and consumer awareness on the damages of plastics on the environment
  2. To advocate for plastic pollution reduction.
  3. To achieve mass public support for strengthening policy and fiscal incentives to reduce plastic use and divert plastic from landfills; and
  4. To promote a deep understanding of circular economy principles by encouraging recycling.

[1] AIEL is a research arm of ZELA.


[3] Ibid

[4]  A Comprehensive Assessment of Pathways Towards Stopping Ocean Plastic Pollution, Available at;


[6] Marine Debris: Understanding, Preventing and Mitigating the Significant Adverse Impacts on Marine and Coastal Biodiversity. Technical Series No.83. Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Montreal, Available at;

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