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Plastic bags ban gives rise to new businesses

Barely three months to implementation of plastic bags ban, some manufacturers have already seen emerging lucrative opportunities and are investing billions of shillings in recycling efforts.

According to Environment Cabinet Secretary, Judi Wakhungu and National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) director general, Geoffrey Wahungu a multibillion- shilling investment option is up for grabs for those venturing into the recycling business.

Some firms are already in big time recycling of plastic with players in the private sector estimated to have already injected Sh6 billion into the emerging plastic recycling business.

Besides a number of small-scale plastic collection companies are already involved in making construction sheeting, plastic seats, water tanks, fencing poles while others have started manufacturing diesel in a process known as pyrolysis.

This is a method of melting plastic in high temperatures. Kenya has banned the use of plastic bags for shopping from September. CS Wakhungu published the ban in a gazette notice to reduce dumping of the bags.

The UN estimates that 100 million plastic bags are handed out every year in the country by supermarkets alone. Business Hub has established that some members of Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), have embraced the ban.

This is contrary to the recent protests by some manufacturers and traders that the ban would negatively affect their investments. “More than 10 out of 176 of our members are engaged in big time recycling.

They are making different types of products ranging from construction materials to plastic furniture. Others are making fuel,” KAM Sectors Manager, Samuel Matonda said in an interview. He said some companies have been grinding tens of tonnes of bottle plastic and exporting it to China.

The Asian tiger has since 2010 been importing an estimated 6.5 million tonnes of recyclable plastic per year from across the world. “If we had incentives for plastic recyclers in Kenya, we could not be worrying anymore about the plastic menace in the country,” Matonda added.

In some countries where incentives have been used such as South Africa, Egypt and Australia, recyclers have made a fortune, created employment and helped to clean the environment, he said.

In Kenya, he said, individuals involved in recycling go through a lot of challenges to remove plastics from the environment as are chased around by various groups including regulators.

“When these people involved in recycling, go collecting, transporting and cleaning the dirty plastics at their own expense, instead of being encouraged, they are chased around like chicken.

As KAM we are calling on the government to work closely with these people,” he said. Cleaning the Kenyan environment of plastics has been welcomed by a number of agencies and multi-nationals including those from countries where it has succeeded.

Speaking at the United Nations Office in Nairobi recently during a consultative stakeholders forum on plastic ban, Indian High Commissioner to Kenya, Suchitra Durai described Kenya’s move to ban plastics as bold and indicated that there are numerous opportunities in recycling.

“In India there is a huge debate going on plastic recycling. But of value is that now there are new technologies that have great benefits,” he said. Durai said an Indian professor has devised a method by which common plastic litter such as wrappers, bottles and grocery bags can be transformed into a substitute for bitumen asphalt used in road construction.

So far, through the Prof Rajagopalan Vasudevan’s technology more than 5,000 kilometres of plastic roads have been laid in at least 11 States in India.

“The resulting ‘Plastone’ block, made from a mixture of waste plastic and stones, has been found to withstand more pressure and resist water percolation hence making roads durable,” said Durai.

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