The government of Botswana has indefinitely postponed the ban on plastic products that was supposed to come into effect on November 1, saying this was being done to allow for more consultations.

In a statement, Botswana’s Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism ministry said it will “communicate any further developments regarding the plastic carrier bags and plastic flat bags prohibition as they occur”.

Plastic litter is a massive headache for conservationists and nature enthusiasts across the world. Image by Christopher J Gervais

“This means that the plastic bag ban will not effect on the 1st November 2018.  The postponement is being done to allow further engagement on the implementation of the prohibition,” the statement signed by the ministry’s permanent secretary, Thato Raphaka said.

“The public, business sector and stakeholders are encouraged to continue with the good work that they had started to reduce the negative impact of plastic bags on the environment, waterways and on livestock in Botswana.”

Botswana is wary that plastic has adverse impact on human and animal health.

A country known for its livestock and wildlife, Botswana says animals die from choking when they eat plastic bags “moreover plastics are harmful to livestock when ingested as they disrupt the digestive process causing bloating and ultimately death of the animal, creating losses for farmers.”

“In light of the above hazards presented by the plastic carrier bags, the public is advised to be mindful and dispose of plastic bags in a manner beneficial to the environment and livestock,” Raphaka said.

Earlier in October, Botswana had announced a $500 fine for people using plastic bags after the 1 November deadline. The country had also proposed a 30-day prison sentence for repeat offenders.

Botswana had lamented that in the past, public education and awareness campaigns have focused on the proper use of plastic bags to curb littering, promotion of its reduction, reuse, and recycling initiatives and development of compulsory standards have been introduced, but environmentalists say the  “measures never yielded positive and sustainable result.”

Some tour operators in the Zambesia region had already issued out alerts warning travellers about the new anti-plastic laws in Botswana.