by Bedah Mengo NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
Nairobi looked different and cleaner as citizens largely complied
with a ban on plastic bags, which took effect on Monday.
The plastic bags, initially common on the streets, retail outlets
and open air markets, were nowhere to be seen as citizens went about
It was a breath of fresh air, a sudden change of habit and a
seemingly less struggle to comply with the government ban, with many
satisfied with the move.
On the streets of the central business district, a survey showed
that citizens had complied with the move to kick out plastic bags.
Women, who initially would be spotted with plastic bags with some
carrying more than one, had replaced them with canvas bags of
Some had pink, other blue, orange and black canvas bags that
signified the change with times and the love for the environment.
Along the busy Tom Mboya Street, in shops that stocked the
plastic bags that went for between 0.05 U.S. dollars and 0.20
dollars, the change was evident.
On the shelves that once hosted the plastic bags now lay canvas
bags each going from 0.10 dollars to 0.30 dollars depending on the
"Buy canvas bags, buy canvas bag at 0.10 dollars.
"Don’t be caught on the wrong side of the law," shouted a hawker
carrying dozens of the canvas bags along the street.
Several pedestrians rushing to work bought the bags as the man,
who had an assistant, did booming business early morning.
Away from the hawker at Muthurwa market, which was once described
as the bastion of plastic bags, change was in the air.
The flea market is home to hundreds of traders and before the
ban, they generated tonnes of plastic bags garbage.
The plastics, as at many other markets across Kenya, were used
for packing cooked food, fresh produce, clothes, shoes and other
merchandise sold at the busy facility.
But on Monday things were different, the dozens of traders who
normally sell the bags to customers, had replaced their wares with
"10 dollars, 10 dollars....canvas bags at 10 dollars, 10
dollars," shouted one of the hawkers as he sought to attract
However, as the hawkers sold the bags, traders selling produce
like tomatoes, onions and potatoes had changed tactic.
Before the ban, they would offer customers plastic bags for free
after buying their commodities, but on Monday, the traders asked
buyers to buy the canvas bags.
"If it was my wish, I would offer you for free something to carry
in your purchase as it was before but things have changed," said
Mary Wanjiku, a trader.
"We have to comply with the law because we don’t want to be
Other traders packed their produce, especially the bulky ones in
gunny bags doing away with the practice of stuffing them in several
However, not everyone at the market and the nearby Gikomba, the
biggest second-hand items market in Kenya, had complied with the
law, some traders could be seen packing their wares and those for
customers in plastic bags.
But it is at the supermarkets that the ban on plastics had
totally been complied with as the retail outlets replaced plastic
bags with reusable canvas bags.
At a branch of Eastmatt Supermarket along Tom Mboya Street, the
outlets branded plastic bags had been replaced with canvas bags,
with each going from 0.05 dollars.
On the other hand at a branch of Naivas on the opposite street,
their new mantra "use me, re-use me and try not to lose me" rent the
air as customers left the stores with branded canvas bags.
"Our last day to use plastic bags was yesterday, we tried as much
as possible to clear them.
"From now on, we will use a variety of canvas bags depending on
the items bought," said an attendant.
Kenya notified citizens on the move to ban the use, manufacturer
or importation of plastic bags six months ago in bid to have a
cleaner environment and protect its natural resources including
Kenya used up to 24 million plastic bags monthly, with half
ending up in the environment due to poor disposal.
Transition to alternative packing material has been slower with
many waiting for the last minute.
A case to challenge the ban in
court was thrown out last Friday paving way for implementation of
the law on Monday.
Anyone found with plastics will now be arrested and charged, with
the offence attracting a fine of between 19,417 dollars and 38,834
dollars, a jail term of between one and two years, or both.
"To avoid plastic bags, invest in reusable containers, look for
alternative packing materials, use paper, steel or bamboo straws,
buy unpackaged food, use degradable or reusable shopping bags made
from starch, corn or potatoes," the National Environment Management
Authority informed citizens.
However, not all plastic bags have been banned in Kenya.
bags used for industrial primary packaging where the product is in
direct contact with the plastic and is done at the source have been
exempted from the sanctions.
The environment agency on Monday said it would send out its
inspectors and environment police to inspect whether manufacturers
and citizens had complied with the ban.
Kenyan retailers take up plastic ban with cautious optimism
by Ben Ochieng’ and Christine Lagat NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
landmark plastic ban that took effect on Monday received cautious
welcome from retailers who expressed concern over its impact on
their businesses despite its much touted environmental benefits.
The small scale retailers who spoke to Xinhua said that they were
not opposed to the ban since it would reduce environmental pollution
but urged authorities to provide them with alternative packaging
materials to stave off losses.
"A transition from plastic bags to eco-friendly alternatives is a
"s small business owners, we welcome this decision but hope the
government has put in place solid measures to cushion us from
financial losses," George Wamba, a grocery store owner at a Nairobi
Cabinet Secretary for environment and natural resources Judi
Wakhungu on Feb. 28 announced that the plastic ban will be
implemented at the end of August in a bid to boost the country’s
Wakhungu’s directive was however opposed by manufacturers who
cited loss of jobs and revenue to the exchequer.
The high court briefly suspended the plastic ban and directed
parties to resolve the issue amicably.
However, the State clarified it will not backtrack on the
decision to phase out plastic carrier bags and urged manufacturers
and retailers to settle for eco-friendly alternatives.
Judges at the High Court on Aug. 26 ruled that the plastic ban
was still on paving the way for retailers to discard their
stockpiles or pay astronomical fines.
Kenyans from all walks of life expressed mixed feelings over the
plastic ban that was hailed by conservationists as a giant step
towards safeguarding the country’s green future.
"I think people should be more conscious of the negative impact
plastic bags are having on the environment.
"At the same time, we need to be mindful of small scale traders
who rely on plastic bags for packaging.
"They should not suffer unnecessary losses," said Elvin Obure, a
Retail chains were racing against time on the eve of the plastic
ban to discard the remaining stock and order biodegradable packaging
Ordinary citizens are worried the plastic ban and the punitive
fines to be meted on any individuals and businesses that do not
comply might boomerang.
"I have no problem if the ban will help save the environment from
harm but I think the authorities should have implemented it in
phases and educate the public on the alternatives," said Peninah
Karugi, a hair dresser.
Kenya joined Rwanda and other East African countries that have
declared a ban on plastic bags citing their profound negative impact
on ecosystems and human health.
The National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) in its
latest assessment disclosed that plastic carrier bags contribute 9
per cent of total solid waste and are to blame for 90 per cent of
environmental degradation in the country.
Kenya has over thirty licensed plastic bag manufacturers with a
combined capital investment estimated at 80 million dollars.
These plastic manufacturers employ 9,000 people who are currently
staring at job losses once the ban is implemented in full.