Placing a ban on plastic bags is not a guarantee of attaining a friendly and aesthetic ecosystem, a point made by the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), who said “plastic bags are not the problem but consumer behavior and waste management”. Reference here to ‘waste management’, maybe, a rather subtle jab at the government’s efficiency in waste management.
Kenyans are said to be at risk of losing jobs following Kenyan Government enforcement of ban placed on plastic carrier bags and violators could face up to prison sentence of 4 years or pay up to $38,000 (KSh3,919,700) fine with the minimum fine as $19,000 (Ksh1,960,230) or a year prison sentence.
The World’s strongest ban that came to force on Monday applies to the manufacture, importation, selling and use of plastics bags, with an exemption for industrial use only, says Kenyan government.
In response to the ban, KAM added that the ban will cost job loss that could render 80,000 Kenyans jobless. However, the Minister for Environment , Judi Wakhungu, said more jobs will be created from making bags from environment friendly materials.
Considering the large amount of plastic bags used in the country there has been uncertainty about how consumers will adjust to life without polythene bags which are given freely by retailers. A BBC correspondent in Nairobi, confirmed that “so far many Kenyans appear to support the ban on plastic bag”.
The amount of plastic bags used in Kenya is estimated at 24 million a month which translates to 288 million a year as 100 million plastic bags are handed out every year in Kenya by supermarkets alone.
Environmental concerns are the basis for issuing the ban as the Capital city, Nairobi, is littered with plastic bags. This not only defaces the city, but also causes harm to the environment by blocking sewers because they do not decompose.
Globally, Countries are taking steps toward creating a clean, green and healthy environment by keying into the plastic bags ban trend, and African countries refuse to be left out as few of them have either passed the law and implemented it or passed the law with the intention of implementing it. These African Countries include Botswana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Mauritania, Morocco, Mali, Rwanda, Tanzania, Tunisia, South Africa, Uganda with Kenya recently joining the league.
The ban in Kenya is said to have caught most traders off-guard despite a six-month prior notice by the Government as most small-scale traders in Nairobi’s Muthurwa market had not bought alternative packaging materials for their goods.
There are obvious benefits to banning plastic bags as over 1 million bags are consumed per minute leading to an estimate of 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags per year; retail businesses spend about $4 billion each year on plastic bags and millions of sea animals die from plastic bags and other waste each year. However, provision of better alternatives is paramount in order to ensure an effective implementation of such ban.