No turning back on planned ban on plastic bags, says PS

Wednesday August 23 2017

By PAULINE KAIRU
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The Environment ministry said it is not going to relent on the push to ban plastic bags.

The ministry said it will first act on the manufacturers.

Environment Principal Secretary Charles Sunkuli outlined specific exemptions to the use of plastic bags which include primary food packaging, waste bin liners, as well as horticultural export bags.

However, he said the industrial food packaging bags will have to be labelled to show who the manufacturer is.

EXEMPTIONS

“We are not shifting the date of the ban,” said Mr Sunkuli. “Our first level of enforcement is to limit manufacture of the plastic bags to make them unavailable to the population.”

The PS expressed confidence that the ban will be successful due to what he referred to as widespread support from a segment of Kenyans.

“A segment of manufacturers have also come forward to support the ban,” he said.

According to Mr Sunkuli, there are at least 179 registered manufacturers of plastic bags in Kenya. However, he noted that there were a couple of other illegal manufacturers.

“There are several exemptions that have been provided by the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) to the various stakeholders who have made appeals and where the ban was considered impractical. These exemptions were considered for items that realistically cannot be replaced by an alternative,” said the PS.

REGULATE

Mr Sunkuli said that at the local level, policing and enforcement will be done by the county governments with the guidance of Nema.

The government, he said, was determined to ensure Kenya is a trailblazer and provides a good example to the region on environmental conservation.

The East African Legislative Assembly passed a law to regulate the use, production and exportation of plastic bags in East Africa.

Kenya is a major exporter of the bags to the rest of the East African region with an estimated value of $250 million (Sh25.8 billion) per year, according to the ministry in charge of East African Community affairs.

“I know there have been questions about job losses by manufacturers of the polythene bags, and I can confirm that the number of jobs that will be created by producing alternatives will be more widespread than now,” he said. “After all, most of these industries produce multiple products so they won’t have to entirely close down.”

ALTERNATIVE

He said they already had 40 producers of alternative packaging materials lined up for approval. “Most of the alternatives are coming from rural women and youth using locally available materials like the kiondo.

The ministry will support them by providing incentives.

There is a wide range of alternatives and our objective is to make sure they are affordable to the poor.

The ministry, along with other players, has organised an exhibition of alternative packaging materials starting on Friday to Sunday at KICC.

Materials that  have undergone thorough vetting and pre-qualification by Nema and licensed for distribution across the country will be showcased.