Kenya Joins Global Ban of Plastic Bags

Photo by hhach

Presented by Greenpeace Africa
Posted Aug 29, 2017

Kenya, the East African country with coastline on the Indian Ocean,  joined fellow African countries: Tunisia, Morocco, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia, Botswana, Ethiopia, Mauritania and Eritrea in banning plastic bags. The new regulations call for a fine of $19,000 to $38,000 or a four-year jail term for those manufacturing or importing plastic bags in Kenya. The rule, put into effect yesterday, also means that trash bags will be taken off supermarket shelves and visitors entering Kenya will be required to leave their duty-free shopping bags at the airport.

According to United Nations Environment Program, more than 8 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans every year, where they not only become a health hazard and public nuisance but also impact marine life, fisheries and tourism. “At current rates, by 2050, there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish, wreaking havoc on marine fisheries, wildlife and tourism,” the program said in a statement when Kenya’s ban was announced in March. Kenyan shoppers are thought to use 100 million plastic bags a year, according to the United Nations.

Reacting to the news that the ban will take effect on 28th August and that the government has ruled out extension of the order, Greenpeace Africa’s Executive Director, Njeri Kabeberi has said:

“Greenpeace Africa welcomes the decision by the Kenyan government to implement the plastic bags ban. This is a beacon of hope in fostering an environmentally conscious society and is a clear message that Kenya is ready to join other African countries in taking bold steps on environmental issues that are key to ensuring a sustainable future.”

“Plastic bags are highly toxic and damage the ecosystem, they also take hundreds of years to degrade. We urge all Kenyans to know the importance of preserving the environment. Kenyans need to adopt 100% re-usable and eco-friendly alternative packaging materials in the market like the Kiondo baskets (traditional baskets) similar to the traditional tunisian baskets called “koffa” that are now used for shopping after Tunisia banned plastic bags in March this year,” continued Kabeberi.

“As we welcome this ban, we cannot forget the challenge that lies ahead of us in dealing with the tonnes of plastics already polluting our environment. Greenpeace urges the Kenyan government to work with local communities and NGOs to look for sustainable ways of recycling plastic into usable items,” concluded Kabeberi.

Kenya joins more than 40 other countries including China, the Netherlands and France that have introduced taxes on bags or limited or prohibited their use. Accordig to the New York Times, in Rwanda, plastic bags are illegal, and visitors are searched at the airport. Britain introduced a 5 pence charge at stores in 2015, leading to a plunge of more than 80 percent in the use of plastic bags. There are no nationwide restrictions on the use of plastic bags in the United States, though states like California and Hawaii ban nonbiodegradable bags.

Greenpeace Africa will continue to work with National and County governments towards making the ban effective as this will indeed mitigate health and environmental effects resulting from the use of plastic bags.

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