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NEMA faulted on paper bags rule

NAIROBI, Kenya Jan 11 – The Kenya Association of Manufactures (KAM) has challenged the National Environment Management Authority to set up re-cycling plants instead of focusing on banning the use of plastics bags.

KAM believes the environmental watchdog did not exploit all the options available when banning the use of plastic bags that are under 60 microns within the next three months.

"Yes, we are concerned about rising cases of plastic waste in the country but I believe NEMA is taking the wrong action in trying to address the issue," KAM Chief Executive Officer Betty Maina said.

Ms Maina argued that banning of plastic bags would not adequately address the waste situation in the country and instead petitioned NEMA to focus more on opening up re-cycling plants across the country.

"NEMA has to figure out how to tackle this problem conclusively. Why can\’t they direct the city council and other local authorities to do something about waste management?" Ms Maina wondered.

Last week, NEMA imposed a ban on importation and use of what it termed "very thin plastic bags," by increasing the minimum measurements for plastics manufactured or imported to Kenya from the current standard gauge of 30 microns to 60 microns.

Rwanda is the only country in the East African Community to have successfully banned the use of plastic bags. Both Uganda and Tanzania have set the minimum weight limit to 60 microns.

Locally, the plastic sector constitutes about 30 players and the Kenya Association of Manufacturers estimates showed the industry was worth Sh5.8 billion as at July 2007.

The drastic decision by NEMA has also raised fears of commodity price increase in the short term, especially in retail outlets and markets, with plastic manufactures passing on the higher production charges that will trickle down to the consumer.

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"I see this having an impact on consumer prices as manufactures look to cover their costs," Ms Maina said.

Uchumi Supermarkets Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Ciano however said it was still too early to speculate on whether prices would shoot up in stores.

"NEMA has given us at least three months by which time I think we ought to have sought alternative packaging material," Mr Ciano said on phone with Capital Business without specifying what alternatives Uchumi would be seeking.

While throwing its support behind the ban, Nakumatt has indicated that it would be phasing out of plastic packaging by introducing reusable bags in its stores.

"We recognise the fact that in this day and age, it\’s virtually impossible to eliminate use of plastics 100 percent. We are however making arrangements to adopt other environmentally friendly options," Nakumatt Holdings Managing Director Atul Shah said.

KAM has also urged NEMA to engage in consumer education in reducing plastic bag waste.

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