Traders and public unprepared for plastic ban

Monday August 21 2017

Polythene paper bag vendors at Kisii fresh produce market on April 17, 2017. With just a week before regulations banning plastic bags become effective, most traders and consumers seem unprepared for the ban. PHOTO | BENSON MOMANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP.

Polythene paper bag vendors at Kisii fresh produce market on April 17, 2017. With just a week before regulations banning plastic bags become effective, most traders and consumers seem unprepared for the ban. FILE PHOTO | BENSON MOMANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP. 

By AGGREY OMBOKI
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Just a week to the start of regulations outlawing use of plastic bags, traders in Kisii County seem unprepared for the ban.

A spot-check by the Nation on Monday showed most traders were still using the proscribed plastic carrier bags in urban and rural areas, an indication that many could still be having huge stocks left to spend.

LOSSES

Mr David Kariuki, a plastic bag wholesaler, said he was staring at huge losses following the ban as it would affect his weekly sales estimated at Sh1.2 million.

Mr Kariuki not only serves Kisii County but has clients from far-flung areas like Awendo, Mbita, Rongo, Muhuru Bay, Sori, Homa Bay, Ndhiwa and Sare.

The businessman described the imminent loss as "catastrophic" since his suppliers and customers still lacked the alternative disposable bags.

His hope, he said, lies with the outcome of a case filed in the High Court  by the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) challenging the ban on grounds that it would hurt consumers and suppliers.

ALTERNATIVES

The petition is set for hearing on August 22.

In an affidavit signed by KAM Chief Executive Phyllis Wakiaga, the association said state agencies, including the Environment ministry and Nema, ignored proposals by stakeholders on the activation of a Green Levy Fund (GLF), which would establish several plastic and waste recycling plants.

KAM Sectors Manager Samwel Matonda has also faulted the ban, saying it did not take into account alternative ways of dealing with the plastic waste menace.

“We have ways of recycling plastics, including production of fuel through the process of pyrolysis. This will see us convert the waste into usable energy," he said, adding that the government should make use of that opportunity and boost its energy stock instead of haphazardly restricting the use of plastics.

MULTIPLE USE

Ms Uma Abdallah, a fishmonger based in the Kisii town, said the ban would hit her business hard since customers are used to plastic carrier bags.

“My clients usually demand I package their fish in plastic carrier bags even after wrapping them in newspaper. How will I convince them to carry fish in paper bags which cannot be re-used?” she said.

Ms Abdallah said the fish industry is heavily dependent on plastic carrier bags since they are cheap, durable, user-friendly and reusable.

“As fishmongers and shoppers of other items, including vegetables and assorted consumer goods, we normally use the bags for multiple purposes, including packaging and wrapping of fish,” she said.

WORK

Another fishmonger, Abdul Malik, also based in Kisii town, said the ban would put hundreds of youth out of work in the country’s various trading centres.

“My business is also a source of income to a number of youths who sell plastic bags to my customers. Banning the cheap bags would push many of them out of business around here and throughout the country,” he said.

Lack of education on the ban was also identified as a legal and financial threat to residents.

Mr John Mosomi, a shop owner in Keroka town, said most residents were unaware of the legal consequences of the ban, which carries a fine of up to Sh4 million and a six-month jail sentence for offenders.

EDUCATE

“Many people, especially in rural areas, are likely to run afoul of law enforcement officers by carrying their goods in the bags. Corrupt police officers could also take advantage of the situation to extort bribes from unsuspecting residents flouting the state directive,” he said.

Mr Mosomi asked the government to intensify public awareness campaigns on the ban and educate residents on the importance of using disposable bags in a bid to conserve and clean up the environment.

“Timely and detailed government information can be delivered using administrators and advertisements in media outlets," he said, adding that the move will not only prepare citizens for the ban but also educate them on its importance and the impact it will have on the environmental conservation efforts.