Bernard Gitau @benagitau
Ministry of Environment estimates that the success rate of plastic carrier bags ban effected six months ago stands at 80 per cent. This is despite stiff opposition from manufacturers and industry lobbies against the ban effected August 28 last year.
Environment Principal Secretary Charles Sunkuli says this follows support from members of the public, stakeholders’ engagement and incentives to plastic bags transporters. “Several airlines have continued to announce to their passengers that Kenya is plastic free country, a move which has boosted our implementation strategies,” he said during a media briefing, adding that this helps create awareness against importing them into the country.
The ban affected the use, manufacture, and importation of all plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging. The CS noted that the success rate was based on curtailed production, supply in supermarkets and other retail sector and reduced disposal in the environment.
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimated that before the ban, supermarkets in the country were handing out over 100 million plastic bags annually. It further notes that plastics bags are estimated to contribute some eight million tonnes of plastic waste that leak into the ocean floor annually.
“We cannot use statistics of those charged and prosecuted due to use of plastic bags to measure successful implementation, but through the above parameters,” he said.
But although successful, Sunkuli said the banned plastic carrier bags were still in circulation and used by small-scale traders. “Small-scale traders especially those dealing in fast foods, fruits, juices among other perishable goods across the country are still using them,” he said.
Sunkuli revealed that the products were coming from neighbouring countries that have not banned plastic and vowed to crack the whip on rogue traders. “We are working closely with Customs Services Department to nab those traders and investors sneaking the products in the country,” he added.
National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) director-general Geoffrey Wakhungu had earlier warned traders in various markets in Nairobi against flouting the ban. “We are calling upon chairpersons of Ngara, City, Muthurwa, Gikomba, City Park and other markets to make sure there is total compliance failure to which we will close them,” he said.
A number of unregulated firms, especially, in residential areas are supplying plastic bags on demand to small-scale traders. Meanwhile, Sunkuli clarified that the government has not mooted any plans to ban the plastic bottles.
“Instead we are approaching the problem from establishing a take back scheme where Nema will come up with comprehensive policy guidelines by the end of April,” he said. Sunkuli said the scheme involves collecting waste bottles and selling them for recycling.
Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) has already welcomed the government’s move to embrace a holistic waste management approach to managing PET plastic bottle. Chief executive officer Phyllis Wakiaga said the direction to allow plastic bottle manufacturers develop plans to recycle the bottles will create jobs and encourage innovation.
“A sustainable waste management solution must look at addressing behaviour change and economic inequality which lie at the heart of our waste problem,” she said. Wakiaga added that this involves creating awareness for proper waste disposal right from the house to waste collection, transportation, segregation, and recycling.
“Following the concept of take-back-scheme, the sector aims to work with the government and its agencies to develop sustainable solutions for the management of PET related waste,” she said.