Bernard Gitau @benagitau
The National Environment Management Authority (Nema) has banned non-woven carrier bags for their ‘low gauge’ poor quality from March 31.
The ban comes one year, seven months after the State banned the manufacturing of plastic carrier bags paving way for mass production of non-woven or biodegradable bags.
But Nema director general Geoffrey Wahungu has expressed concerns over the non-woven bags’ adverse effect on the environment as a result of poor disposal and their single-usage nature.
“Due to the rising need of non-woven bags, manufacturers are producing very ‘low quality’ products which cannot be used multiple times,” said Wahungu.
Environmentalists and a cross section of Kenyans are calling for a ban of pet plastic bottles and packaging used by bread and milk companies.
James Wakibia, an environmentalist, decried Nema’s and Kenya Bureau of Standards’ (Kebs) earlier decision to allow low-quality, non-woven bags to replace single-use plastic.
“We need a total shift. The ban should also include nets that supermarkets are using to package fruits and vegetables,” he said addding that single-use plastic cups, plates, straws, take away containers and cutlery must be done away with.
A source from the Ministry of Environment told People Daily that the move is testing waters before the ban on plastic bottles is announced.
In February, Environment Cabinet secretary Keriako Tobiko accused manufacturers of lethargy and cavalier attitude in dealing with plastic bottles.
“We gave Kenya Association of Manufacturers timelines to operationalise the scheme but unfortunately, the government is not satisfied over the lethargy and cavalier attitude by industries,” said Tobiko.
Most shoppers have questioned the non-woven bags durability echoing Nema sentiment but accused the watchdog of failing to implement their policy fully.
“These bags are of low quality and a cash cow for traders. You only use it once and it is torn,” said Fredrick Omondi, who has been using the bags.
Carol Nyaga accused Nema of conceding failure in waste management.
“The government is quick to blame manufacturers and consumers for waste woes. We can ban all materials on sight, but without a waste management strategy, we are just chasing tails,” said Nyaga.