An Ethical Evaluation of Awareness and Attitudes Regarding The Use and Disposal of Plastic Bags in Lusaka Usban

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Ntawugashira, Jean Bosco
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The University of Zambia
The aim of the study was to make an ethical evaluation of the awareness and attitudes regarding the use and disposal of plastic bags in Lusaka urban. The research questions were as follows: (i) What is the situation in Lusaka urban regarding the disposal of plastic bags? (ii) How aware are the shoppers, manufacturers of plastics, supermarkets and grocery stores managers and street vendors about the disposal of plastic bags in Lusaka urban? (iii) How responsible are the shoppers, manufacturers of plastics, supermarkets and grocery stores managers and street vendors with regard to the disposal of plastic bags in Lusaka urban? This was an exploratory study research design involving qualitative methodology with an ethical component. The methods used involved primary and secondary data. The primary data were collected through interviews, focus group discussions and observations while secondary data were collected from relevant literature at the University of Zambia main library, the department of philosophy, the Zambia Environmental Management Agency library, and relevant books, journals and the internet. Convenience sampling was used with regard to the 60 shoppers interviewed and purposive sampling was used to obtain relevant information from various institutions and people. Lusaka City has an estimated population of 2,200,000. The targeted population (excluding focus group discussions) was 85 people selected from various backgrounds and parts of Lusaka. In addition, information was sought from focus group discussions with people from Small Christian Communities. The ethical theoretical framework involved the Land Ethic and Environmental Virtue Ethics. Plastic bags are manufactured in large quantity in Lusaka and they present a big problem to the environment in Lusaka urban. As they are used and reused, they end up in the solid waste stream making plastic waste a major challenge regarding solid waste management in Lusaka. They have also reduced the aesthetic value of the environment in many parts of Lusaka. Lusaka City Council has a systematic way of collecting waste in general and of disposing it, but it needs cooperation from the community to succeed in this challenging task. There is unfortunately no national law regarding littering, only a by-law of the Lusaka City Council. Consequently, poor awareness among the general public about the destructive effects of plastics on the natural and human environment in addition to a careless and irresponsible attitude towards caring for the environment are sources of environmental degradation in Lusaka urban. The Land Ethic, with its emphasis on the fact that humans are an inseparable component of the natural environment, was availed of to evaluate the perceptions and attitudes of the general public regarding waste disposal on the environment. Environmental Virtue Ethics was also availed of to evaluate whether people had a responsible attitude to waste disposal. The findings of the study revealed that whereas shoppers had some knowledge about the disposal of plastic wastes, they tended to place the responsibility of disposing of these wastes on the Lusaka City Council without undertaking personal responsibility for their own behaviour in throwing away plastic waste indiscriminately. Furthermore, they felt that the government was at fault in not having a mandatory policy with respect to the disposal of waste. Manufacturers of plastics and supermarket companies and grocery stores were more concerned about the financial success of their businesses rather than about the threat to the natural environment. However, they expressed a willingness to comply with a mandatory government policy regarding the use of plastic bags and bottles if one were laid down. Arising from an ethical evaluation of the findings, the government should ban plastic bags and either introduce biodegradable materials or reintroduce paper bags. The attitude and behaviour of manufacturers, companies and consumers regarding the use and disposal of plastic bags in particular also needs to change. In particular, ZEMA needs to intensify its efforts to sensitise the general public with regard to the destructive effects of plastic materials on the environment not only through a law but also through formal and informal education.
Refuse and refuse disposal--Luska Urban--Zambia , Recycling (Waste, etc.) , Environmental policy