The government will start arresting the importers, producers and consumers of the popular polypropylene bags sold in supermarkets and other retail stores.
National Environment Management Authority (Nema) says it will launch a crackdown against the ‘‘very thin, poor quality non-reusable bags”.
Nema boss Prof Geoffrey Wahungu has warned Kenyans against defying the directive or risk being arrested, prosecuted and jailed.
“The penalties are equal to those of banned plastic bags. We are not going to tell them our strategies; that today we will raid Mombasa, Nairobi or Nakuru. To be clear, from today, non-woven bags are contraband and people will be arrested,” Prof Wahungu warned.
The Nema boss said the government will not give those affected amnesty, urging Kenyans to co-operate in conserving the environment.
“We are just implementing a ban that came into effect in 2017; this is not a new order. Those selling and manufacturing the materials should cease or the law shall take its course,” Prof Wahungu said.
The authority said it had not allowed the use of the non-woven carrier bags.
“If you want to test if you will be arrested, please don't do that. You all know that we banned plastic bags in Kenya but you ended up producing and importing the same bags that has plastic all over it. What do you expect?” the Nema boss posed.
Prof Wahungu says the importers and producers of the bags should take the blame for refusing to seek advice from the authority.
“You should even have consulted the Kenya Bureau of Standards. You refused to heed our calls then later you start crying foul asking where Nema was when you started producing the non-woven carrier bags. We did not allow usage of such bags in Kenya,” Prof Wahungu maintained.
The environmental body said it issued clearances of materials that are permitted in the country and non-woven bags was not among them.
Prof Wahungu says Nema issued ample time and grace period to the manufacturers and importers of the materials to clear their stock before it started implementing the ban.
Nema urged Kenyans to use environmentally-friendly bags.
Kenyans started using the non-woven carrier bags when plastic bags were banned.
“We did not wake up from slumber to issue the ban. We talked to the players and gave them a one-month notice but they asked for an extension. We gave them three months to comply. Is this move justifiable or not? Prof Wahungu asked.
Prof Wahungu blamed manufacturers for the predicament, saying they started producing poor quality, very thin and non-reusable bags to Kenyans.
“At the time we were getting very good gauge and strong bags so we reasoned because it was reusable or had the capacity for reuse, we allowed it to stay. But we have realised this has been abused. The gauge has become so thin. It is unsustainable, it is now a single use, it is plastic, it is non-woven and so it’s a problem,” he said.
On December 13 last year, Nema met the players and agreed to give them the three-month extension.