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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

Retail outlets cash in on Kenya’s plastic bags ban   

By Bedah Mengo NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Supermarkets and other retail outlets in Kenya are among the biggest beneficiaries of a ban on plastic bags, which took effect on Monday.

The outlets, which are in their hundreds in the East African nation, are currently selling to their customers the alternatives to plastic bags that include canvas bags creating a new revenue stream.

Before the ban, the shops would pack the goods bought by shoppers in plastic bags of various sizes for free.

But the new era has come with lots of blessing, with each outlet selling the shopping bags from 0.05 U.S. dollars for the light bags to 0.50 dollars for the heavy canvas bags.

And with hundreds of customers thronging into the retail outlets every day, the canvas bags are becoming a cash cow for the shops.

“We are providing customers with eco-reusable bags for 0.05 dollars for small bags and 0.10 dollars for large bags. But we encourage you to come with your kiondos and baskets. Feel free to return with your reusable bags,” Tuskys, one of the biggest supermarket in Kenya informed customers via SMS on Monday.

The same message was pasted at the entrance of all its branches across the capital Nairobi and other parts of the country.

A visit to three branches of the retail outlet in Nairobi, however, indicated that most of their customers were not bringing along reusable bags. Instead, they were shopping and buying the reusable bags as the supermarket made a killing.

A similar scenario was replicated at branches of Naivas supermarkets where customers were encouraged to come with their shopping bags but a majority bought the recycled bags from the outlet.

 

   
 

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- A hawker sells bio-degradable bags in the streets of Nairobi, Aug. 28, 2017. Kenya’s 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. XINHUA/ALLAN MUTISO

At a branch of Nakumatt supermarket, their larger branded canvas bags were going for up to 0.50 dollars, an indication of how lucrative the business was.

While customers were similarly asked to bring along their shopping bags, many of them shopped and paid for the canvas bags.

“I have no choice but to buy the canvas bags,” said Moses Mutua, a shopper at a branch of Tuskys supermarket along Moi Avenue.

“If you tell men to bring along their shopping bags, that is practically impossible because I cannot walk around with it in my coat pocket waiting to shop. For women it is easier because they would carry them in their bags.”

Mutua bought several items that filled two canvas bags spending 0.20 dollars on the bags, money that initially he would have saved if plastic bags were still in use.

“Supermarkets should consider giving to customers these shopping bags for free because I do not believe if their cost is higher than that of plastic bags. It seems like they are taking advantage of the new regime to make money,” he said.

As consumers feel the pinch, retailers noted the canvas bags would help them save costs that arose from provision of plastic bags.

According to Retail Trade Association of Kenya, the budget on plastic bags constituted up to 2 percent of retailers cost bases, therefore, the elimination of the expenditure results into huge savings for that outlets some that have annual turnover of up to 583 million dollars.

As supermarkets cash in, shoppers talked to, however, said they would work to eliminate the extra charges by carrying their own bags to retail outlets.

“I love shopping, which I do every day because I get all my shopping including groceries from the supermarket. I cannot be buying the bags every time I go there which would be expensive. I would now have to carry my own every time I go shopping,” said Susan Muhanga, an insurance agent.

Environmental organizations have praised the ban on plastic bags which has largely been complied with by Kenyans.

The Greenbelt Movement, which has been at the forefront of protecting Kenya’s environment, said it supports the ban because it is a noble cause that guarantees a cleaner, healthier environment to future generations.

“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,” said Njeri Kabeberi, the executive director.

On Monday, the National Environment Authority sent out inspectors to ensure the public complies with the ban but said its focus would be on companies.

Kenya used up to 24 million plastic bags monthly, with half ending up in the environment due to poor disposal.

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EARLIER REPORT:

Kenyan manufacturers suspend operations over plastic ban

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s umbrella body of industrialists said Tuesday some firms have been forced to suspend their manufacturing and delivery operations following the recent ban on plastics by the government.

The Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) said the plastic bag makers had wound up operations while some have relieved nearly thousands of workers of their duties.

“KAM has received formal notification from plastic bag manufacturers of industrial and non-industrial packaging that with effect from Aug. 28 they have temporarily suspended their manufacturing and delivery operations following the recent ban on plastics,” KAM said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

The lobby said the reasons for the suspension are to enable them to get clarifications on the following areas in order to continue their operations.

The manufacturers are seeking clearing letters from the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) for both manufacturers and their users.

They are also seeking clearance on the meaning of extended producer/user responsibility and or effective manufacturer and user take back schemes for manufacturers and customers.

The East African nation in March imposed a ban on the manufacture, use and importation of plastic bags for commercial and household packaging effective Aug. 28.

The ban - the third attempt in a decade - has seen Kenya join other environmentally conscious nations in curbing the use of plastics.

KAM, which has been opposed to the ban, claimed that more firms had closed their operations and that the shutdowns would cause 60,000 job losses.

“We are talking of 60,000 direct jobs...then there are indirect jobs the traders and the people they employ, transporters and others along the value chain,” said KAM.

However, the government has since dismissed the 60,000 job losses figure as an “exaggeration.”

According to KAM, some of the most important household products adversely affected include salt and maize flour.

“Distribution and supply of fertiliser will also be disrupted because the flat plastic liners used in their packaging are affected by the ban,” KAM said.

The industrialists said Kenya stands to lose export revenue because there is currently uncertainty about the manufacture of plastic flat bags used for packaging of, flowers, fish, tea and EPZ export.

“Manufacturers who manufacture for export are also affected and this will impact on export revenues,” it said. The manufacturers were given six months to clear their stock but they have argued that the time was not enough.

Meanwhile, NEMA, the environment watchdog has entered into an arrangement with supermarkets for the collection and recycling of plastic bags.

Robert Orina, NEMA’s chief enforcement officer, said recyclers have been asked to collect the bags from supermarkets.

“We have contracted recyclers and licensed them so the work can begin as soon as they declare the types of plastic bags they can handle. We ask individuals with plastic bags to take them to the nearest supermarket,” he said on Tuesday.

NEMA said the ban on plastic bags does not affect flat bags used in industrial packaging. Director general Geoffrey Wahungu said on Friday that industries will be allowed to use the bags for primary packaging. 

             

 

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