Kenya’s Plastic Bag Ban
By admin October 6, 2017

After ten years of failed legislative attempts, at the end of August Kenya was able to pass a law that banned the sale and use of plastic bags. In what is perhaps the toughest ban, the law prohibits the manufacture, distribution, sale or use of plastic bags with fines imposed as high as $40,000 USD and prison time. Prior to the ban Kenya used an estimated 24 million plastic bags a month. Though the east African nation is joining a growing number of countries to impose partial or total bans on plastic bags, the fines imposed by the Kenyan government are comparatively high.

Forty countries have banned or attempted to limit plastic bag use through taxation including China, France and Rwanda. Kenya is the most recent addition to the list of countries to attempt to limit plastic use and consequentially curtail increasing oceanic and environmental degradation caused by plastics. Kenya’s Environmental Minister named plastic bags as the biggest challenge to solid waste management. Plastic bags are an infamous problem in Nairobi, the nation’s capital. They take between 50 and 1,000 years to degrade. Improperly disposed plastic bags cause water ways to clog as well as build up on streets and walkways.

Plastic bags also accumulate in the ocean harming oceanic life. Plastic bags deposited in streets also become poisonous fodder for livestock where livestock graze in the streets. According to the United Nations Food Programme as many as 20 bags are removed from cow’s stomachs at a time, raising concerns regarding livestock positioning.  Kenya’s complete ban will first target plastic bag manufactures for fines.

Kenya’s ban is not without opposition particularly from manufacturers who as sellers will bear the brunt of early fines. Prior to the implementation of the ban, a Kenyan parliamentary committee demanded the suspension of the bill mirroring concerns from other organizations, including the Kenyan Manufacturers Organization which said that the bill would cause the loss of millions of jobs. Despite opposition the bill was passed. The Kenyan government shot down attempts from international plastic bag importers who cited commercial loss as a reason to end the ban.

By enforcing a law that makes plastic- bag alternatives a more lucrative alternative the Kenyan government has perhaps inadvertently created room for the expansion of a number of new markets which focus on re-using plastic waste or creating alternatives to now banned plastic bags. Nakumatt, the largest grocery store in Kenya has embraced the ban and even prior to the implementation of the ban began to use netting as a more sustainable, eco-friendly alternative to bags. They have also publically embraced the brand’s responsibility to be more eco-friendly. A-One Plastics is another company that may experience an increased valuation following the ban. A-One further breaks down plastic waste as well as makes and sells bio-degradable plastic bags, which are not covered by the ban. Alternative Energy Systems (AES) collects used plastic bags and turns them into a source of fuel. AES CEO says he does not expect the ban to hurt business as there is an excess of available plastic to be recycled.

Given the six- month adjustment period granted by the government, transgressors seen carrying plastic bags will yet be arrested or fined. Hopefully the ban will lessen environmental harm as well as open new avenues for clean energy and sustainable business.


Further Reading:

There is so much out there’: Kenya’s plastic bag battle – in pictures

Kenya plastic bag ban comes into force after years of delays

Kenya brings in world’s toughest plastic bag ban: four years jail or $40,000 fine

In Kenya, Selling or Importing Plastic Bags Will Cost You $19,000 — or Jail



Thanks for sharing !

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