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Bilan Zéro Mika

Zéro Mika or Zero Plastic

Stéphanie Jacob

Despite challenges, Morocco is determined to reach its zero plastic bag goal

One year after its launch, the Zéro Mika operation is considered a success. The ban on plastic bags has ushered in new modes of consumption. However, while official production has come to a definitive halt, unauthorized production has yet to be completely eradicated

The general opinion is that the Moroccan consumer has accepted the ban, and in the countryside, one only needs to look around to see that plastic no longer contaminates the landscape as before. An advantage for the environment, but also for shopkeepers and retailers. “Before the ban, we had to pay out between 1,000 and 1,5000 DH (around US$ 160) per month to buy plastic bags, which we didn’t charge customers for,” a grocer explained. “Now, with the new type of bags, we buy them at 50 centimes (US 5¢) per unit, and sell them at 1 DH (US 10¢). As well as the environmental benefits, us grocers are much better off financially.” Yet some shopkeepers continue to buy plastic from hawkers. “I don’t understand some of my fellow grocers,” remarked Hicham, a store owner from Agadir. “These fraudsters sell their plastic bags at twice the price compared to before the law came into effect. Some habits are deep-rooted and hard to change.” If at first Zéro Mika (mika means plastic in Arabic) left people bemused, the campaign has proven resilient. While a constructive coalition between different ministries has contributed to the strategy’s success, the government will nevertheless need to keep a close eye on its development.

“A pressing issue that merits our collective engagement”

It has been just over a year since Zéro Mika was brought into effect. Initial focus was put on biodegradable bags… without success. This led to an intense period of governmental reflection on how to contain plastic bag pollution, and an unequivocal conclusion: to ban them outright. The law goes by the label n°77-15 and came into effect on 1st July 2016. It is a law which bans the production, import, export, commercialization and use of plastic bags. Not all kinds of plastic bag are subject to the ban; only the type that is typically offered at the checkout. From the Interior Ministry’s perspective, while the reasoning behind this decision is permissible to, or even accepted and understood by Moroccan citizenswho are increasingly aware of environmental problemsthe ban has enabled the ministry to maintain the pressure needed to achieve its objectives. Since the law came into force, more than 450 tonnes of plastic bags, and around one hundred machines for their production have been seized. The result? Formal production of plastic bags has been totally eradicated. Minister of Industry Moulay Hafid Elalamy said, “It’s a national project that mobilizes all of us. The issue at stake is one that merits our collective engagement.”

Creating new business opportunities

Law n°77-15 coming into force has stimulated the emergence of new business activities, to meet the growing market demand for alternative solutions to the plastic bag. The annual production capacity for replacement products is estimated to be at 4.6 billion for paper bags, 100 million for woven bags and 120 million for non-woven bags.

The Moroccan Department of Industry has set up a 200 million Dirham (around US$ 21 million) fund, dedicated to financing and supporting impacted retailers and manufacturers through the reorientation of their activities. To date, 72 businesses have expressed an interest and are eligible to benefit from the fund. Only 16 of these businesses have filed their applications for investment and are benefitting from state support. These companies employ 475 people and will create a further 509 jobs.

In addition to financial aid, this support strategy also encompasses the provision of expertise to facilitate the establishment of investment programmes, efforts to sensitize banks so that they grant favourable interest rates and insurance policies to the businesses affected, and collaboration with the National Social Security Fund (CNSS) to ensure that unemployment benefits are paid out as appropriate.

80,000 km cleaned up

On the ground, the big task for the Zéro Mika operation was to initiate the removal of all the plastic bags that were stuck in trees and scattered across the landscape. The Moroccan Ministry of the Interior launched a clean-up operation covering more than 80,000 km. Over 180,000 hectares were cleaned, including ‘black spots,’ zones where there was so much plastic that the ground underneath could barely be seen. More than 7,000 tonnes of plastic waste were collectedalmost all of which was incinerated in cement kilns.This national strategy is showing significant results. Before the ban, Morocco was one of the countries with the highest consumption of plastic bags in the world, a place on the podium that has been lost thanks to collective determination.

Taking action on all fronts and the involvement of several ministries

The fight against the plastic bag, a ubiquitous object that was heavily ingrained in consumers’ everyday habits, required a joining of forces.The industry which controls production units, the Interior Ministry which controls markets, the departments of finance and the environment and finally customs; which controls imported products upon their entry all rallied together and coordinated their efforts across different fronts in preparation for the ban. The initial emphasis was on regulation, along with monitoring and enforcement of the law. This was followed by the promotion of replacement products, and finally efforts were invested in supporting manufacturers and traders affected by this change in their industry.

L'Economiste du Maroc
Stéphanie Jacob
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