In most places on earth the plastic bag has become a pariah, as it poisons the land and the oceans, but at the University of Bamenda, carrying this item as an accessory is a new way to show elegance and class.
While at the campus, students at the University of Bamenda say they have taken to accessorizing their dress plastic bags with designer label names such as Dior, Gucci, Versace, Louis Vuitton, and Palm Angel.
Instead of carrying a school bag, now the students carry their books and any other items they might need while at the campus in these plastic bags that carry names of designer fashion brands.
“Dior is my choice of brand,” says Sally Ndifor who is a student at the Department of Communication and Development studies of the University of Bamenda.
She says her choice of Dior was taken because everyone knows it is one of the most expensive brands of dressing.
“After buying my brand of shoes, t-shirts, and trousers, I must be sure to get the same brand of plastic bag to make my dressing gorgeous,” she says adding that her preference for carrying school books in the Dior plastic bag gives the impression of her being part of her generation and not someone who is old school.
For Lizette Singeh it is not just about fashion, convenience as well, as her school bag is small and unable to properly carry her books.
“Since most of my books are ledgers and I have a smaller bag, I buy a plastic bag at the shop at a cheap price of CFA F 50 ($0.09),” says Lizette who is a student at the Department of Geography and Planning.
For Dorinda Che another student from the University of Bamenda the preferred brand name is Louis Vuitton.
“I find pleasure holding the brand of Louis Vuitton since the rich and expensively dressed students carry this brand of polythene bag to school. I feel as though I belong when I carry my books in my pink Louis Vuitton plastic bag,” says Dorinda.
Although the girls showed more willingness to talk about their shiny and colourful plastic bags that carry the names of designer labels, the boys too have been doing this. Some of the boys enjoy these bags, with some claiming that it is a form of disguise, as no one will know whether you are going to school or to the mall.
But for some other students carrying these plastic bags is not just meant to suggest a class. For some, it is a business survival mechanism as plastic bags can conceal merchandise for sale at the campus.
Apart from being part of the new dressing code, other students confessed to carrying plastic bags to school more for business purposes.
“I carry peanut, chin-chin, and parched groundnut to school, for sale so that I can get some money to buy notes for myself,” says Ngene Blandine.
To carry these items, Ms. Ngene bought a Gucci plastic bag.
“I bought a Gucci plastic bag so that I can make my goods look neat and fashionable too,” she says.
This trend has, however, sparked controversy as environmentalists want the university to intervene and stop this trend by students. In several African countries, there has been agitation by environmentalists who want the use of plastic bags banned. In countries like Rwanda, the law banning the use of plastic bags been a success as products are packed in paper or more durable bags.
But in Bamenda, the demands of environmentalists are not as radical, as there is this belief that the ongoing genocidal war in the Once Independent State of Southern Cameroons would make implementation difficult.
However, Martin Tse, an environmentalist in Bamenda laments to Timescape Magazine that the reckless use and disposal of these polythene bags shall pose a serious problem to soil ecology. He proposed that authorities at the University should take drastic measures to curb the reckless use of these plastic bags.