By Bedah Mengo
NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- A ban on the use
of non-woven polypropylene shopping bags in Kenya to curb
pollution is bearing fruit months after the sanction took
Towns, rivers, markets and residential areas
remain free of the bags that were initially disposed after
single use, following an earlier ban on plastic bags that took
effect in September, 2017.
Kenya announced in mid-March to ban the importation,
manufacture, supply and use of non-woven polypropylene bags
following increased pollution.
The ban took effect on April 1.
"Due to the rising need of non-woven bags in the market, it
has been noted that manufacturers of these bags are producing
‘low gauge’ poor quality bags which cannot be used multiple
times," said Geoffrey Wahungu, director general of National
Environment Management Authority (NEMA).
He noted the single usage of the bags has led to
environmental consequences due to poor disposal coupled with
lack of infrastructure to manage the bags.
The authority consequently directed all manufacturers,
importers, users and suppliers to stop trading in the non-woven
A survey on Saturday at Muthurwa, Wakulima and Gikomba flea
markets, the biggest three fresh produce and clothes outlets in
Nairobi, indicated that they are largely free of the eyesore
created by the non-woven bags.
At Muthurwa, the garbage site at the market that was
initially colored with tens of the bags now contains only waste
from farm produce that include vegetables and fruits.
Things have changed for the better since the ban on non-woven
"A majority of traders here are only selling the woven
"They are a little costly but consumers are now used to,"
said Ann Mwiikali, a trader at the market, noting that the
cheapest bag she sells goes for 30 shillings (0.3 U.S. dollars).
Non-woven bags were going for as little as 0.05 dollars,
which was the same price as plastic bags, making shoppers to
The costly woven bags have enhanced discipline among Kenyan
shoppers, with most of them visiting markets and supermarkets
carrying their own shopping bags from home, a thing that has
curbed environmental pollution.
"It has now become a habit.
"I walk around with woven bags in my handbag because it does
not make sense to buy a new one at 0.5 dollars each," said
journalist Beatrice Wanjiku.
Anyone found selling, manufacturing or using the bags face
fines of up to 40,000 dollars or prison sentences of up to four
But as the east African nation records success with the ban
on plastic and non-woven shopping bags, the new challenge is
single-use plastic bottles, which are chocking the country’s
water bodies and urban areas.
On Sunday, the plastic bottles sat on the edges of Nairobi
River as its dirty water flowed through Mukuru slum, one of the
largest sources of the plastics. More of the bottles are washed
from residential areas upstream, thanks to poor disposal.
President Uhuru Kenyatta last month announced a ban on
single-use plastics in beaches, national parks, forests and
The ban he said will take effect on June 5, 2020.
"Kenya has remained a campaigner for a sustainable
"In light of this commitment, two years ago, we banned the
use, manufacture and sale of environmentally harmful plastics,
polythene bags and packaging materials.
"We are also banning single-use plastics in all our protected
areas," the president said.