Kenya Passes Strict Plastic Bag Ban

Connector Summer 2017

Kenya has passed a law which makes producing, selling and using plastic bags illegal and punishable by up to four years’ imprisonment or $40,000 in fines, in an attempt to reduce the nation’s plastic pollution.

The Law came into effect Monday, August 28th, and constitutes a legislative initiative that took three attempts over ten years to pass.

Habib El-Habr, an expert on marine litter working with UN Environment in Kenya said that many of the bags used in Kenya end up into the ocean, strangling turtles, suffocating seabirds and filling the stomachs of dolphins and whales with waste until they die of starvation.

“If we continue like this, by 2050, we will have more plastic in the ocean than fish”, he said.

Judy Wakhungu, Kenya’s Environment Minister told BBC: “Plastic bags now constitute the biggest challenge to solid waste management in Kenya.”

The newly passed Law is the strictest the world has seen, even allowing police officers to pursue those carrying plastic bags, but according to Mrs Wakhungu enforcement initially targets manufacturers and sellers.

The National Environment Management Authority (Nema) says that, currently, enforcement officers can only confiscate plastic bags, but not arrest offenders.

In addition, travellers coming into Kenya with duty-free plastic shop bags will be obliged to leave them at the airport.

Last week, the High Court dismissed a case filed by two plastic bags importers urging it to drop the ban, but the Court ruled that environmental concerns were more important than commercial interests.

Kenya joined a network of more than forty other countries that have banned, partly banned or taxed single use plastic bags, including China, UK, Italy, Rwanda, Mauritania and Eritrea et al.

However, Samuel Matonda, spokesman for the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, said that the Association was not happy with the ban, and it warns that this could cost 60,000 jobs and force 176 manufacturers to close – as Kenya is a major exporter of plastic bags to the region.

Source: Climate Action Programme