A ban on plastic carrier bags has come into force in Kenya. Anyone found manufacturing, selling or carrying plastic in Kenya will now face fines of up to $40,000 or prison sentences of up to four years.
This is the third attempt in the past ten years to ban plastic bags in Kenya.
On 28 February 2017, a notice by the government was issued. Kenya’s Environment Minister Judi W Wakhungu had given the order in a bid to tackle the environmental woes.
Plastic shopping bags are posing a major hindrance to the urban waste disposal system in the country, especially in the capital city of Nairobi as dumping grounds are filled with towering plastic piles.
Kenya joins the list of other African nations — Cameroon, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Mauritania and Malawi — who have also adopted bans on plastic.
According to the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), more than 100 million plastic bags are given out by the supermarkets in Kenya every year.
UNEP added that the plastic bags have long been identified as one of the leading causes of environmental damage and health problems — killing birds, fish and other animals that mistake them for food. They also damage agricultural land, pollute tourist sites and provide breeding grounds for the mosquitoes that carry malaria and dengue fever.
“Kenya is taking decisive action to remove an ugly stain on its outstanding natural beauty,” Erik Solheim, the U.N. program’s executive director, had said earlier this year.
UNEP also added that plastic bags contribute to the 8 million tonnes of plastic that gets leaked into the ocean and seas every year. At current rates, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish.
As reported by BBC, manufacturers who use polyethene to wrap products are exempted from the ban. In its ruling, the High Court has dismissed a case filed by two plastic bags importers urging it to drop the ban. The court ruled that environmental concerns were more important than commercial interests.
Research in Europe has shown that a paper bag must be used three times to compensate for the larger amount of carbon used in manufacturing and transport it.
Likewise a plastic “bag for life” must be used four times and a cotton bag must be used 131 times.
The Logical Indian applauds Kenya’s resolution to ban plastic even as the world is reeling under severe environmental challenges. More such measures should be adopted in other countries so that environmental pollution is checked.