Mauritania bans plastic bag use

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A sheep on a garbage-littered street in Mauritania (archive shot)
Image caption,
Animals risk death by eating plastic bags, the government says

Mauritania has banned the use of plastic bags to protect the environment and the lives of land and sea animals.

More than 70% of cattle and sheep that die in the capital, Nouakchott, are killed by eating plastic bags, environment ministry official Mohamed Yahya told BBC Afrique.

Plastic bag manufacturers could be jailed for up to a year.

Plastic makes up a quarter of 56,000 tonnes of waste produced annually in Nouakchott, official statistics show.

Mauritania's Organization of Consumer Protection head Moctar Ould Tauf said he welcomed the ban, Efe news agency reports.

It was of "particular importance" given the negative impact of plastic bags on the environment, animals and marine species, he said.

Environment Minister Amedi Camara said that nearly all of the plastic package waste is not "collected and is found in the natural environment - land and sea - where they are sometimes ingested by marine species and livestock, causing their death".

The government, local non-governmental organisations and the UN Programme for Development (UNDP) have been promoting the use of new biodegradable bags, the Mauritanian Information Agency reports.

Anyone using, manufacturing or importing plastic bags could be fined or sentenced to a year in prison, Mr Camara said.

Several African countries, including Rwanda, have already banned the use of plastic bags.

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