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Last year the National Environment Complaints committee released a report which indicated that every month an average of 24 million plastic bags were being used in Kenya. This led to the government issuing a ban on single use plastic carrier bags. The ban came into force on the 28th August, 2017.
Initially there were outcries from the public and the association of manufacturers about the ban leading to loss of jobs and revenue for the country. However, there is a general improvement in the environmental conditions since the introduction of the ban. This includes relatively cleaner streets. We no longer have plastic bags flying around on windy days.
But, even though there is a single-use plastic carrier bag ban in place, one year after the ban came into effect, the legislation is far from being effectively applied. The lack of enforcement of implementation plan, protests from manufacturers and traders continues to affect effective single use plastic bags ban implementation. There is still large scale consumption of single-use plastic bags in Kenya. A number of unregulated suppliers, supply smuggled plastic bags on demand to small scale traders. A spot check by Greenpeace Africa at Kibera informal settlements and Githurai market in Nairobi indicated that dealers have arrangements with suppliers who deliver the bags at designated points.
Ban Implementation plan
To deal with the impacts of plastic pollution in Kenya there is need for a clear implementation plan for the existing single-use plastic bags ban. Improved monitoring to assess compliance including small scale and informal businesses may help improve compliance. Lack of a proper enforcement plan has resulted in reduced compliance among businesses and consumers. There is also the need for government, businesses and manufacturers to provide affordable, accessible and sustainable alternatives to consumers.
The smugglers who supply banned single-use plastic carrier bags source them from across the borders. In the East African region, Rwanda is the only other state that has implemented plastic bags ban. Uganda, Tanzania and many other East African countries provide smugglers with plenty of opportunities to get the banned plastic bags and bring them across the Kenyan border. Therefore, improved border control and policing may help reduce entry of smuggled single-use plastic carrier bags and allow for effective ban implementation. Also, legislating an East African regional plastic bags ban that would include neighbouring countries would be more effective in helping avoid the impacts of plastic pollution.
Finally, the single-use plastic bags ban does not address the larger plastic pollution problem. Banning plastic bags plays a huge role in eliminating plastic waste pollution, however, placing a ban on all single-use plastic materials such as plastic bottles and straws; developing sustainable waste management systems; and achieving mindset shift among businesses and consumers to embrace better waste management practises and reducing waste at the source will go a long way in working together with existing legislation in avoiding plastic waste pollution.