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Kenya pledges dialogue with manufacturers
to end row over plastic ban

By Christine Lagat (Xinhua) -- The Kenyan government on Wednesday reiterated its commitment to hold dialogue with manufacturers to end stalemate over enforcement of a plastic ban.

Director General of National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), Geoffrey Wahungu, said that structured discussions with industry will commence soon to find an amicable solution to rows linked to a plastic ban that came into force on Monday.

“Our doors are open to manufacturers of plastic packaging materials seeking clarity on the ban that came into force two days ago. We have maintained that the ban only affects a limited component of plastic bags and have no intention to close factories that employ thousands of Kenyans,” said Wahungu.

He spoke in Nairobi during a meeting with members of Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) who expressed reservation on the implementation of the ban.

Wahungu said the state will in future hold a series of dialogue forums with industry to shed light on the legal framework governing a ban on manufacture and use of plastic bags.

“The plastic ban that has received overwhelming support from the public is part of a national solid waste management and is not meant to stifle industrial progress in the country,” Wahungu said.

He said the plastic ban exempts industrial packaging, fast-moving consumer goods, pharmaceutical products and large polythene bags used for garbage collection in cities.

Kenya enforced the historic plastic ban on Aug. 28 earning the East African Nation an enviable position in green stewardship.

The manufacturing sector, however, was opposed to the plastic ban, terming it a threat to job creation and income generation.

A court case filed by the manufacturing lobby was suspended last week, paving way for its enforcement.

KAM CEO Phyllis Wakiaga said investors were not opposed to the plastic ban but wanted clarification on how it will impact on businesses.

“As manufacturers, we have always supported a balance between environmental sustainability and economic growth. We look forward to fruitful dialogue with the state to clear the air on contentious issues surrounding the plastic ban,” said Wakiaga

KAM Director and Head of the Legal Committee, Mucai Kunyiha, added that it is important that new terminologies that are being introduced as part of exemptions or new directives are understood uniformly by all stakeholders.

“The issue of waste is a complicated matter that needs the collaboration of all stakeholders. If a body like NEMA does not have the capacity to manage waste nationally, it is impossible for us as the business community to do it solely, as expressed in the extended producer responsibility directive issued by NEMA, just last week,” Kunyiha said.


Kenya’s 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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