The remarkable gains made since the government banned the manufacture, sale and use of plastic bags two years ago are under severe threat.
To blame are the porous borders through which plastic bags are being smuggled into the country by unscrupulous traders. It is a lucrative business for which the traders will risk the Sh4 million fine or four-year jail term.
There has lately been a proliferation of the single-use bags, with many traders in open-air markets across the country, some supermarkets and other retailers selling their products in them despite the ban.
The National Environment Management Authority (Nema) has in the past few weeks stepped up their crackdown, arresting scores of traders and hauling them to court. However, the bags are still in circulation and the traders like them, largely due to the convenience they offer.
Nema says the bags are being smuggled in from Uganda, Tanzania and even lawless Somalia. Clearly, this menace has become a major regional challenge that calls for sustained co-operation to stem the tide. Plastic bags are a major contributor to the environmental pollution that knows no borders.
It is, therefore, encouraging to hear that Nema is seeking regional co-operation in the fight against the plastic bag menace.
The agency plans to solicit the support of the environmental authorities in the other East African member states to tackle the problem. Quite encouraging, though, is the fact that nearly two months ago, Tanzania banned the manufacture and use of plastic bags. Besides Kenya and Tanzania, Rwanda has been free of the plastic bags for nearly a decade.
The time has now come to lobby Uganda and Burundi to also step up surveillance and monitoring to block the imports that have lately been coming in from Somalia.
The crackdown on the offenders, who include small-scale traders and restaurateurs, is commendable. However, a properly coordinated regional campaign should go a long way in ridding the countries of the pollutants.