Kenya’s Plastic Bag Ban - Six Months On

Image: Thomas Mukoya

It has been over six months now since the ban on plastic bags was implemented in Kenya. Officials looked to target sellers and manufacturers head on, outlawing selling, using and producing plastic bags completely. Approximately half a billion plastic bags are used worldwide, and they are causing havoc to the environment. Plastic can take up to 1000 years to biodegrade, and it is ending up in the ocean, killing 100,000 marine animals every year.

Implementing the ban

The ban on plastic bags has been a long time coming, it took three attempts to finally implement the change. Kenya is now amongst over 40 countries that have made this important step in protecting the planet, including France, China and Rwanda. Although the police now have the power to target individuals carrying a plastic bag, they are mostly focusing on suppliers and manufacturers. It has not been a popular decision for many, as previously Kenya was a major importer of plastic bags - there were 176 companies producing them. However the risk of a fine of up to $40,000 and possibility of imprisonment has been an enormous motivator in ensuring that the ban is successful.

The knock on effect

The ban has affected many businesses across the country, from large corporations to small market stalls. The question is always there - I have bought some vegetables, how do I carry them home? However the ban has prompted change already. The larger supermarket chains have started to offer eco-friendly alternatives to plastic bags, made from cloth and string that are completely reusable. There has been a marked difference in the amount of rubbish across the country - after all, half of the plastic that is produced is only used once, and then thrown away. Already it has been shown that the cities are less likely to be prone to flooding, as there aren’t plastic bags clogging up the drains.

Healthy livestock

Previous to the ban, abattoirs in Kenya were finding a shocking amount of plastic in the stomachs and digestive systems of cows, goats and sheep. The country’s livestock has been healthier since the introduction of the plastic bag ban, and in turn plastic is kept out of our own food chain. After all, plastic is definitely not fit for either animal or human consumption.

Even in six small months, the plastic bag ban in Kenya has had a positive effect on the environment. It will certainly be interesting to see the improvements in the years to come.