Kenya has banned the use of plastic bags for shopping from September in what could see 176 manufacturers close shop and thousands of jobs lost.
Environment secretary Judy Wakhungu published the ban in a gazette notice to reduce dumping of the bags, earning accolades from the UN environmental agency, Unep.
The UN estimates that 100 million plastic bags are handed out every year in Kenya by supermarkets alone. “Kenya is taking decisive action to remove an ugly stain on its outstanding natural beauty,” said Erik Solheim, the Unep executive director.
“Plastic waste causes immeasurable damage to fragile ecosystems – both on land and at sea – and this decision is a major breakthrough in our global effort to turn the tide on plastic.”
But the impending ban touched off concerns among manufacturers. The Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) – the lobby group for manufacturers – yesterday faulted the ban, saying the ministry had failed to offer an alternative and that thousands of jobs in the paper industry could be on the chopping board.
Kenya has 176 manufacturers of plastic paper, according to the lobby.
“The six-month period provided for the ban to take full effect is not adequate, as the companies cannot close down production and clear their stocks within this period,” KAM said in a statement, citing an impending major disruption in the sector.
“There is also a need to put in measures to avail alternatives to substitute the plastic bags, the country is not in a position to offer this alternative currently or in the next six months,” it added.
The Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek) also said the policy ban should come with alternative options for shoppers.
“The government could subsidise bio-degradable shopping bags and cartons to trigger uptake as an alternative if its goal is to reduce dumping of plastic bags,” said Cofek secretary-general Stephen Mutoro.
Kenya is the 11th country to impose the ban globally, with the only other African nations being Morocco and Rwanda – which announced the ban in 2008.
But European countries have preferred to introduce a levy on the shopping bags over a total ban. For instance, in England the government started charging five pence (Sh7) per bag in October 2015 to encourage bag reuse by shoppers.
The BBC figures indicate that the use of plastic bags in UK fell by 83 per cent six months after the levy was introduced.
Kenya had in 2011 sought a similar ban on plastic bags, but the quest flopped. Nairobi County has more recently sought to slap fees on shoppers for plastic bag use.
“It is notified to the public that the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources has with effect from six months from the date of this notice banned the use, manufacture and importation of all plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging,” Prof Wakhungu said in a Kenya Gazette notice dated February 28.
Mr Mutoro warned that enforcement of Kenya’s ban by the national government could prove difficult since solid waste disposal falls under counties as stipulated in the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution.
Industrialists said such policy changes look set to throw their plans and budgets in a disarray since there was no proper consultation.
Credit: Business Daily