Plastic bags ban holds, 17 months later

Fred Aminga and Harrison Kivisu @faminga

The government’s ban on production and use of plastic bags has posted positive results within several sectors including fisheries, tourism and livestock.

Plastic bags represent one of the primary sources of pollution in Kenya and it is estimated that supermarkets were handing out 100 million plastic bags per year.

The move has already made its mark with the Economist Intelligence Unit listing as a leading example of saving oceans.

Cited as a case study in a report on plastic pollution, the report reveals that incidences of plastics in livestock taken to slaughter dropped to 10 per cent, from more than 30 per cent.

However, the ban did not come without resistance from industry lobbies who tried to scuttle attempts to contain the nuisance in 2005, 2007 and 2011 as groups representing manufacturers and other businesses fought the ban.

Job opportunities

“Industrial players and their representatives, in particular the Kenyan Association of Manufacturers (KAM) have been the most vocal opponents of the ban,” notes the case study.

It was reported that several industries would shut down and people would lose their jobs, but activists say this is a small price to pay.

“When you protect the environment, you’re protecting 45 million people and you’re also creating more job opportunities to support a clean environment,” says James Wakibia, the campaigner behind who used social media to raise concerns about the need to ban plastics.

Common policy

In an effort to self-regulate and get ahead of future regulation, the plastics industry recently formed an organisation to collect, sort and recycle polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles.

Meanwhile, members of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) from Kenya yesterday hinted at plans to introduce a common policy that will see ban on plastic bags harmonised within the five-member countries. Tanzania and Uganda are some of the EAC member states that still use plastic bags.

EALA Kenyan chairman Simon Mbugua said Kenya has been suffering from plastic bag menace and therefore key of legislators from the country will push for a common ban policy.

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