In 2019 we harnessed the power of media, research and advocacy to campaign for an historic ban on thin plastics in Malawi.

In early 2019 – following a protracted legal battle over a proposed ban on thin plastics – we delivered a campaign to galvanise public support for the new law.

We released an independent assessment on the scale of plastic pollution in Malawi, published results of a public opinion poll, held a press briefing with a panel of experts and published an open letter with other organisations in a leading national newspaper.

On 31 July 2019 – following a period of intense public pressure and media scrutiny – Malawi’s Supreme Court ruled in favour of the ban. LWT has since worked with the Government to help raise awareness of the new legislation.

“The evidence is clear: if thin plastics use continues unabated we can expect degraded soils, worsening crop yields, reduced fish stocks, increased floods, declining human health, and losses in tourism revenue. Let us take swift and decisive action before it is too late.”
Hon Commodius Nyirenda
Malawi Parliamentary Conservation Caucus
“Tackling plastic pollution is crucial to achieving sustainable development, which is why targets on this issue are woven into the UN’s SDGs. We welcome Malawi joining the growing number of countries across Africa that are tackling plastic pollution and upholding a common vision for a cleaner, safer, and more prosperous future.”
Andrew Spezowka
Portfolio Manager, UNDP for Resilience and Sustainable Growth

Campaign activities


This report includes an extensive review of international scientific studies alongside interviews and data collected from 45 government, NGO, and private sector contributors in Malawi. It is conclusive on the negative social, environmental and economic impacts of plastics pollution.

Press conference

In the run up to the Supreme Court ruling, Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, the UN Development Programme and the Malawian Parliamentary Conservation Caucus joined forces to host an expert panel discussion calling for a national ban on thin plastics. The event was covered extensively by the national press.


The results - from over 1,500 respondents - were unequivocal in their concern about the dangers of plastic and their support for the ban. 94% of people supported a ban on thin plastics; 95% believed plastic pollution is a serious issue for Malawi; and 97% believed that plastic waste poses a risk to people, animals, and the environment.

Open letter

In April 2019 we signed an open letter addressed to the Government of Malawi urging it to introduce the thin plastics ban. Alongside a range of NGOs, private organisations and public sector groups, we pledged our support for the ban as a crucial first step in the fight against plastic pollution. The letter was published in the national press.

The court case

In 2015, amidst growing concerns about plastic pollution, the Government of Malawi – through the Department of Environmental Affairs – introduced a national ban on thin plastics of less than 60 microns.

However, 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.

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. However, the Plastics Manufacturers Association then appealed the decision of the High Court and the matter was referred to the Supreme Court of Appeals.

On 31 July 2019, in a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal of the Plastics Manufacturers Association and made the production of thin plastics under 60 microns in thickness illegal.

Plastic pollution: the facts

An estimated 75,000 tonnes of plastic is produced in Malawi each year, of which 80% is single-use that cannot be recycled.

Globally, 300 million tons of plastic waste are now produced every year, almost equivalent to the weight of the entire human population. The majority of plastic waste ends up in in landfills, dumps, and the environment, causing untold, irreversible harm to people, animals, and habitats.

Plastic waste can persist in the environment for centuries and Malawi’s waste management solutions are not equipped to handle current, let alone projected, plastic waste production.

News and resources

The press release

UNDP statement