Kenya Becomes Latest Country to Ban Plastic Bags

Kenya Becomes Latest Country to Ban Plastic Bags”

Last week, High Court dismissed a case filed by two plastic bags importers urging it to drop the ban, but the Court ruled that environmental concerns were more important than commercial interests.

Kenya has now become one of more than 40 countries worldwide to place limits or taxes on plastic bags, alongside countries from the United Kingdom to China to other African countries, including Mauritania, Eritrea and Rwanda, where new arrivals are searched for plastic bags at the airport. It took Kenya ten years to pass a ban that not everyone like.

Kenya is threatening to fine or imprison anyone who makes, sells or imports plastic bags, including local shops selling rubbish bags or tourists wandering out of the airport with a duty free carry-on, the New York Times reports. In Africa, Kenya is one of several nations, including Cameroon, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Mauritania and Malawi, that have enacted laws against the bags. Exemptions were made for those producing plastic bags used for industrial purposes.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that Kenyan supermarkets hand out as many as 100 million plastic bags every year.

"If we continue like this, by 2050, we will have more plastic in the ocean than fish", he said.

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Allegedly, in Nairobi's slaughterhouses, cows destined for human consumption had up to twenty bags each removed from their stomachs.

"This is something we didn't get 10 years ago, but now its nearly on a daily basis", said county vet Mbuthi Kinyanjui as he watched men in bloodied white uniforms scoop sodden plastic bags from the stomachs of cow carcasses.

The laws are primarily aimed at plastic bag manufacturers but police will be allowed to go after individuals for using plastic bags, including plastic trash bags.

The National Environment Management Authority (Nema) says that, currently, enforcement officers can only confiscate plastic bags, but not arrest offenders. Samuel Matonda, spokesman for the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, said it would cost 60,000 jobs and force 176 manufacturers to close.

Supermarket chains operating in Kenya, such as France's Carrefour, have started offering customers cloth bags instead of plastic ones, while Nairobi's retailers and shoppers are switching to bio-friendly bags, Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper reports today.

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