, NAIROBI, Kenya, August 24 – The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has assured Kenyans that the ban on plastic carrier bags will not be used to harass Kenyans.
Geoffrey Wahungu, the NEMA Director General while speaking at a panel discussion before the opening ceremony of an exhibition titled “a case for plastic bag bans- eco-friendly packaging solutions,” urged Kenyans to cooperate for the sake of the environment.
“We are not looking to arbitrarily arrest Kenyans. Our immediate aim is to limit the carrier plastic bags from the source. We want Kenyans to help us implement this ban because, without their good will, we will not succeed,” he said.
Some of the controversial parts of the ban are the hefty fine and jail term prescribed should one be found on the wrong side of the law. the Director General of said that two to four million fine, one to two years jail term for offenders or both were passed after exhaustive consultations.
“The law was made in a consultative manner. The Cabinet Secretary (CS) didn’t Gazette the Act in a vacuum. There were proper and sufficient consultations,” he clarified.
While officially opening the exhibition, the Cabinet Secretary for environment Judy Wakhungu also reiterated that the ministry will not be swayed from their commitment to enforcing the ban on plastic carrier bags effective Monday, August 28th.
She lauded innovative stakeholders who have adjusted to the ban and developed alternative eco-friendly packaging materials.
“As you are aware, I issued this ban on the 28th of February 2017 and gave all stakeholders 6 months to adjust and to comply. The meeting today showcases how stakeholders have adjusted and innovatively developed alternative eco-friendly packaging materials to take place of the environmentally hazardous and condemned polythene bags,” she said.
When the ban was issued 28th of February this year, there were mixed reactions from stakeholders; some lauding the move while others decrying the adverse effects of the ban if it came to force. The CS, however, was quick to point out the costly price the environment has paid for the ‘simple packaging solution.’
“The introduction of plastics in Kenya in the 1960s as a simple solution for packaging problems has turned into a rather environmentally costly undertaking,” she noted adding that “plastic bags are the biggest challenge in solid waste management not only in Kenya but in the world.”
The Kenya Association of Manufacturer’s (KAM) sector manager Samwel Matonda clarified in the panel that they are not opposed to the ban of the plastic carrier bags but rather how it was done.
“Public participation is what we have an issue with. We are not opposed to a clean environment but this ban should have been implemented after thorough consultations,” he said.
Earlier on, Environment Principal Secretary Charles Sunkuli urged the manufacturer’s body to work with them for the sake of the environment.
“We expect more collaboration between KAM and the ministry to deal with some of the issues they have raised. Let’s try and work together for the sake of the environment,” he said.
“We will tell Kenyans if they have any plastic bags to surrender them to the municipal authorities. I want to assure Kenyans that as a ministry we are very good friends & partners with KAM,” Sunkuli said.
Other members of the panellist who were discussing the ban before the exhibition was officially opened by the CS agreed that banning plastic carrier bags has bigger benefits that shouldn’t be ignored by the small inconveniences.
“The whole discussion around greening the economy is bigger than the ban on plastic bags,” noted Jacqueline Mugo who is the executive director of the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE).
However, a vocal Sam Moturi, who is currently undertaking a PhD programme in packaging but also chairs the Institute of Packaging Kenya and a lecturer at the Technical University has voiced his opposition to the ban.
“This is the most retrogressive policy decision that has been taken since the turn of the century because they are doing it the wrong way. One of the ministry people said that you ban then you teach, it’s the other way round; you teach, then you criminalize,” he said.
He insisted that the plastic menace is bigger than the carrier bags saying that plastic material do not litter themselves.
“Right now they are banning plastic bags but people will leave bottle waters in the streets, will they ban them? People are going to throw away yoghurt containers in the streets, are they going to ban them?” he protested.