The ban on plastic bags, announced last week by Environment Cabinet secretary Judy Wakhungu caused quite a storm among manufacturers. It’s interesting how we tackle critical issues in Kenya. It was done through a gazette notice.
Interesting because we’d expect such a big issue announced publicly and actions for breach spelt out. This isn’t the first time plastic, or polythene bags are being banned. In 2011, the government tried it but the plan fizzled out.
This year’s ban will surely fail again because we have never made plastic bags such a big issue. Instead of wasting time banning and unbanning, we should be left to choke in our beloved plastic bags.
Those polythene paper bags have become part of most Kenyans’ lives. Given out free of charge, they carry shopping from supermarkets. We often reuse them to store stuff in the house, carry items and even dispose of garbage.
Carrying a branded supermarket paper bag can be a sign of responsibility and an indication of healthy financial status. If you can shop, you got something in your pocket. Besides, polythene bags have made shopping hustle-free.
You walk in the supermarket or shop bare hands, buy something and walk out with packed shopping. Without these papers, it would be hard to shop, especially for men who don’t walk around with bags. Banning polythene will mean that shoppers will shoulder the cost of shopping bags.
Secondly, there are many industries that thrive on production of plastic bags. Thousands of jobs will be wiped out if the ban is implemented. Family economies will be ruined.
Businesses will close and tax collection will decline. The implication of banning is too grim. Yes, it’s obvious they are a threat to the environment and remain a constant bother on the streets and drainage systems.
But it’s a necessary evil we have learnt to live with. What’s needed from government is improving plastic paper bags management. The government should instead come up with effective ways of disposing of the waste plastic bags to ensure they don’t ruin the environment.
Yes, polythene is not biodegradable and so are many materials used in making, say, computers. Should we ban computers because the remains will pollute the environment?
That’s why countries have recycling plants for various materials or organised ways of dumping waste that can’t be recycled. The writer is the Managing Editor of Business Today (www.businesstoday.co.ke): Email: [email protected]