This month marks two years since the ban on plastic bag took effect. Hitherto, there has been over 500 arrests and 300 prosecutions. Those found culpable have been fined between Ksh 50,000 and Ksh 150,000 with some jailed.
Most importantly, the Authority has reported increased levels of compliance with ban. Notably, the public has changed attitude towards their view on plastic bags and their usage in relation to the environment. Moreover, there been visible cleanliness in most towns that previously used to be dotted with plastic carriers bags hanging loosely on buildings and trees. 80 percent compliance with the plastic ban has been recorded.
According to Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Forestry, Keriako Tobiko there has been tremendous progress in the enforcement of the plastic bags ban. This has resulted into significant reduction in circulation of the banned plastic bags. The CS notes that the ministry will continue to monitor the progress of the ban by ensuring continued enforcement to foster compliance as well as providing the necessary resources. Mr. Keriako also challenges County Government to up environmental conservation agenda to complement the national government efforts.
The 2017 plastic ban was one of the best things to deal with solid to happen in this country, Ag. Director General, Mamo B. Mamo says. Mr. Mamo states that following over a decade of engagement with the relevant stakeholders, the ministry of environment and NEMA felt that it was the right time to effect the ban.
“Plastic bags caused a lot of insolvencies into the environment majorly due to throw away culture by most Kenyans, the Authority felt the need to do something to ensure a clean environment is safeguarded,” Mr. Mamo says. The right to a clean and healthy environment is recognized and protected under Article 42 of the Constitution of Kenya.
With the ban, Kenya become one of the few countries to ban plastic bags globally acting as a benchmark to most countries in the world especially our neighbours in East Africa.
NEMA’s Director Legal Services, Irene Kamunge chairs the committee on plastic bag ban implementation in the country. She says that the mandate of the committee focuses on compliance, enforcement, awareness creation and research which has largely contributed to the success of the ban.
A research sanctioned by NEMA in 2018 on prevalence of plastic bags in rumens of slaughtered livestock in Nairobi’s abattoirs found out that more than 50% of livestock have ingested plastic bags. These animals suffer from various conditions such as depression, being weak and bloating affecting milk and beef production. The researchers concluded that the ban on plastic bags should be upheld to safeguard livestock industry and environment. A prior research by NEMA and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) postulates that Kenyan supermarkets handed out 100 million plastic bags annually that ended littering the environment before the ban.
The Authority has developed draft plastic management regulations to assist in implementation of the plastic bags ban. The regulations are awaiting gazettement by the Environment and Forestry CS Keriako Tobiko. The regulations were developed through a consultative process of all stakeholders in the country such as Kenya Association of Manufacturers, County Governments among others.
Among other things, the plastic bags management regulations seeks to bring forth the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). Through this approach, producers will have financial and physical responsibility of their products especially paper bags and have a duty to ensure the bags they use are well disposed to ensure the environment remains clean. The regulations also define fines and penalties in line with the Environmental Management and Coordination Act (1999). According to NEMA’s Director Legal department, Irene Kamunge, the regulations will guide on how plastic bags will be managed in the country which will be a step in the right direction towards realization of a clean and healthy environment.
The Authority has also been working with the Kenya police in enforcing the ban. Enforcement of ban has largely been successful as the office of Inspector General of Police and Director of Public Prosecutions have offered the necessary support during enforcements.
The Authority has continued to create awareness on alternatives to plastic packaging to both the public in both local and international media. For instance, various exhibitions and campaigns have been held to educate the public on various available alternatives in the market. This has been achieved through various communication strategies that have been put in place concerning the plastic ban.