Kenya begins crack down of plastic bags with zeal

Companies and Consumers found not to have followed the directive risk a fine of between Sh2 million ($19,382) and Sh4 million ($38,759), or a jail term of between one and two years, or both.

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A crackdown on all dead stock by National Environmental Management Authority in various supermarket chains across the country is already underway.

“We are asking members of the public not to be worried because most of them are in a dilemma. We will first give them adequate notice to get alternatives,”

“Our officers will have Nema uniforms and Nema cards for identification,” said Nema director general Geoffrey Wahungu on Monday.

Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Prof. Judi Wakhungu earlier this year made the announced effectively banning plastic bags.

"The ministry has banned the use, manufacture, and importation of all plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging," Wakhungu said in a gazette notice dated February 27.

Kenya association of Manufacturers (KAM) however opposed the ban saying enough consultation was not done.

Two plastic bags importers filed a suit to suspend implementation of the ban last week arguing they needed more time to clear stock and fulfill their contractual obligations.

Judge Bernard Eboso was however not swayed by their arguments to suspend the ban on plastic bags saying the need to conserve the environment overrides commercial interests.

Environmental conservation will be gravely undermined if the regulation is suspended, Public interest is also at risk, he added at Milimani law courts on Friday.

This is not the first time Kenya has tried to ban Plastic bags, in 2007 Kenya first attempted to clean up the country by banning the manufacture and import of bags but failed.

A 2014 attempt also failed to take effect and some had expected the latest attempt to meet the same fate.

Plastic bags are one of the most common and cheap ways used to packaged and carry items.

They are increasingly popular with vegetable vendors (Mama Mboga) and Supermarkets.

Some 100 million plastic bags are handed out every year in Kenya by supermarkets alone while over 24 million plastic bags are used monthly, half of which end up in the solid waste mainstream.

In anticipation of the new regulation, Nakumatt, one of Kenya’s biggest supermarket chain, has started using netting for vegetables.

"We view the ban as a positive change and, as the largest issuer of plastic bags, we have a responsibility to the environment," says chief marketing officer Andrew Dixon.

Plastic bags litter Kenyan streets and clog its waterways leading to expensive repairs running into millions.

Apart from that, plastic paper bags also act as food hazards as animals such as cows consume them leading to the non-bio gradable products strangling the poor animals’ intestines and blocking vital nutrients from being absorbed.

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