Plastic Bags Regulations Give Gufaf Makers A Boost

Plastic Bags Regulations Give Gufaf Makers A Boost

By: Rogia al-Shafee

KHARTOUM (Sudanow) - The regulations adopted in early January that ban sale and use of lightweight plastic bags have revived activity of gufaf (straw baskets) makers.

Announcing the regulations, The Higher Council for the Environment in Khartoum State said 60% of the State’s garbage is in-fact made up of plastic waste.

The Council’s decision has triggered wide controversy with the plastic bags 150 manufacturers arguing that the ban of light plastic bags was impractical and could stifle their industry.

They say the gross capital in this investment amounts to two billion U.S dollars and that the decision could mean the layoff of thousands of workers.

But the Khartoum State forcefully went ahead with applying the measure without hesitation.

On their part traders who did not take the decision seriously could not put alternatives in place in due time. The same applies to the customers who found themselves at a loss.

Surprised by the ban, an employee compelled to wrap bread with a newspaper  

Backers of the measure enumerate the adverse effects of the light plastic bags that can easily be carried away by the wind, spoiling the appearance of the city and causing harm to both humans and livestock.

The scene of plastic bags scattered in roadways, hanging on house fences and trees or clogging water draining ditches, cannot escape the notice of anyone.

Veterinary and agricultural authorities had always been warning about the harm these plastic bags can bring upon the livestock and the fertility of the soil.

These experts have been arguing that these bags, by their very nature, cannot decompose and stay in the ground for a long time, thus obstructing necessary food substances from reaching roots of the plants. In addition, the plastic bags that cover trees and plants obstruct the oxygen needed by these flora, thus suffocating them. These bags are also blamed for contaminating drinking water. Livestock usually mistake them for fodder and eat them. This leads the livestock to suffer stomach disorders and they may eventually die if not treated at the right time. Some citizens use these bags to carry hot food substances and this is sure to harm human health.

For all these negative impacts more than 40 countries have imposed either total or partial ban on plastic bags.

As a matter of fact and before these plastic bags were introduced, the citizens had used to use gufaf (straw bags) for shopping. Woven from palm leaves, these gufaf are considered quite healthy because they are made from local environment-friendly substances. These gufaf (singular guffa) have become part of the Sudanese heritage and the word guffa is often used to refer to the cost of living. And when they say guffat al-mulah, the Sudanese actually mean the cost of living. They say guffat al-mulah has become exorbitant when prices go up.

The guffa is made from date palm or dom tree leaves in different sizes and shapes. Some gufaf are ornamented with colorful substances, while others carry the natural tree leaves grayish color.

In the past, and until very recently, housewives would not do without these gufaf when they go out shopping. In the guffa the housewife would carry meat, vegetables, sugar, salt and spices, all encased in paper, and on top of this she would put her purchase of bread. She would carry the guffa in her hand and when it is heavy, she would put it on her head.

Smaller sizes of the gufaf were used as handbags in the past. Elder women would not mind carrying their clothes in these gufaf when on travel. They are also used to carry presents for a groom on his wedding day.

However, the guffa had been put aside for some time, replaced with plastic bags.

But the recent measure has strongly opened the doors for the return of the gufaf to their previous glory, replacing the plastic bags. Jute and leather bags, both part of the Sudanese heritage, may also see a comeback.

With respect to the return to these traditional bags, people seem divided. Some office workers have considered it difficult to return to these gufaf, because they are impracticable and cannot be carried for long distances. That is because these workers do their shopping on their way home from work. They could not digest the idea of carrying their shopping in cloth, straw or sugar bags. These employees did not, however, forget “the good old days” when the gufaf were used “with all the good and blessings” they contained.

On the other hand some housewives were eager to return to the gufaf, some of them starting to buy them. This has boosted the gufaf trade these days and they can now be visibly seen at marketplaces due to increasing demand from shoppers, both male and female.

For sure a return to the gufaf would help the women who weave them. Up to now the making of gufaf has been a solely female craft. But who knows, may be men would creep into this domain also.




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