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On the 28th of February 2017 the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources banned the use, importation and manufacture of plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging through Gazette Notice No 2334 of 28th February 2017. The plastic ban took effect on 28th August 2017. On the 28th of February 2017 the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources banned the use, importation and manufacture of plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging through Gazette Notice No 2334 of 28th February 2017. The plastic ban took effect on 28th August 217.

The use of plastic carrier and flat bags had become a menace due to high rate of discharge into the environment and a leading cause of environmental pollution and degradation. This led to adverse effects to human health, livestock and marine life while contributing to flash floods in towns and cities due to blockage of drainage systems. The ban will therefore help to eradicate plastic bags menace in the country and improve the quality of the environment. 

The Authority has continued to enforce the plastic ban since the time the ban took effect on 28th August 2017. Besides the efforts by the Authority, implementation of the ban has won the support of many players including the general public. In Lamu County, a local community has over the last two years supported the war against plastic pollution by embarking on an innovative project to address marine pollution from plastics. The initiative involves construction of a boat made entirely from recycled marine plastics with an aim of creating awareness on impact of plastic pollution on the coastal and marine environment. Construction of the boa dubbed ‘Flipflopi boat’ was completed late last year.  

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The flipflopi boat nearing completion in late 2018 (left plate) and the boat setting sail on 23rd January 2019 in Lamu

 

The local community seeks to achieve the flipflopi project objective by doing a 500 km sail expedition starting from Lamu to Zanzibar. The expedition started in Lamu on 23rd January 2019. The launch of the boat sail in Lamu started with a beach clean-up and awareness baraza. The Authority, which participated in both the clean-up and the awareness baraza, commended the community for successfully working on the project which demonstrates innovative ways of managing marine litter including plastics.    

The nine-meter flipflopi boat will sail along the Kenyan coast with stopovers at Kipini, Malindi, Watamu, Mombasa, Diani and Shimoni before crossing into Tanzania. It is scheduled to get to its final destination, Stone town in Zanzibar, on 7th February 2019. The boat is sailing approximately 50 to 80 km a day. During the stopovers along the Kenya coast awareness barazas are being held at the various beaches with attendance drawn from beach operators, fishermen, schools, hotels, tourists, representatives of government institutions, private sector, CBOs and the general public. 

Marine plastics constitute part of what is known as marine litter (sometimes called marine debris) which is defined as any persistent, manufactured/processed solid material which is discarded, disposed or abandoned in the marine and coastal environment. Marine litter items including plastics come from land-based sources as well as marine-based activities such as fishing. Entanglement and ingestion of marine plastics by marine life such as seabirds and the endangered sea turtles may cause blockage of the intestinal tract, intestinal injury, and immobility thus resulting in death of marine animals.

The root cause of marine litter including plastics is poor management of solid waste and it presents environmental, economic, health and aesthetic risks in areas where it occurs (UNEP 2009). Continued enforcement of the plastic ban by the Authority and support for stakeholder initiatives such as the Lamu flipflopi project will go a long way in addressing coastal and marine plastic pollution.

By James Kamula , CDE Lamu

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