No decision on plastics ban

No decision has yet been made on whether to reinstate a ban on thin plastics in Malawi, following proceedings in the Supreme Court of Appeal this morning.

The Plastics Manufacturers Association is appealing against the decision of the High Court pronounced in 2016 to allow the Government to resume implementation of the ban (see timeline below for background). Today the Government presented an application through the Attorney General to try and dismiss the appeal, arguing that the applicants have not made sufficient effort to have the appeal heard since it was filed several years ago. 

However, the Attorney General’s efforts were unsuccessful and the Judge stated that any decision on whether to dismiss the appeal must be made on more “substantive” grounds. He stated that all parties must work together to submit the record of appeal by 31st May 2019. Once it has been submitted, the Court will review the record of appeal and set a date for the appeal hearing. The ban on thin plastics remains suspended until the appeal is concluded.


Jonny Vaughan, CEO of Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, says,“It is hugely frustrating that the fight for a plastic ban has continued to be delayed. Public, political, and scientific opinion have all been shown to support a crackdown on thin plastics. A ban will help to create a cleaner, safer, and more prosperous Malawi for all. Lilongwe Wildlife Trust will continue to work in partnership with our allies to push for the change that is needed.”


Today’s proceedings follow a long and complex legal journey. See below for a full timeline of events to date:

  • In 2015, the Government of Malawi, through the Department of Environmental Affairs, effected a national ban on thin plastics of less than 60 microns (known as the ‘Environment Management (Plastics) Regulations of 2015’).
  • In 2016 the Plastics Manufacturers Association applied to the High Court for a Stay Order restraining Government from implementing the ban. The order was granted, and the Government stopped implementing the ban.
  • The Plastics Manufacturers Association also requested a judicial review of the two decisions made by Government.
  • The first decision was that of closing down the applicants’ factories and imposing fines on them and their distributors/customers for manufacturing/selling thin plastics of less than 60 microns in contravention to the Environment Management (Plastics) Regulations of 2015 without affording them a right to be heard. 
  • The second was the decision by Government to adopt, implement and enforce the Plastics Regulations without due regard to relevant factors such as hardships that Plastic Manufacturers would suffer. 
  • The Government was successful in having the judicial review proceedings dismissed and in June 2018 the High Court allowed it to resume implementation of the ban. 
  • The Plastics Manufacturers Association then appealed the decision of the High Court and the matter was referred to the Supreme Court of Appeals.


     Today, the Judge stated that the record of appeal (against the 2016 High Court decision to allow resumption of the ban) must be submitted to the Supreme court by 31st May 2019. After reviewing the record of appeal, a date will then be set for the actual hearing of the appeal. What this ultimately means is that a final decision on whether the ban will be reinstated will now only be known after the end of May.