Kenyans producing, selling or even using plastic bags are facing up to four years in prison or a fine of US $40,000, giving the country the toughest laws to reduce plastic-related pollution came into force
According to The Guardian, the East African country joins a group of more than 40 nations that have partially banned or taxed single-use plastic bags, including China, France, Rwanda and Italy.
Several of these bags end up in the oceans, choking turtles and seabirds, and filling stomachs of animals like dolphins and whales until they die from starvation.
“If we continue this way, we will have more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050,” says Habib El-Habr, a marine pollution expert working with the UN’s environmental program in Kenya .
Acording to Mr. El-Habr, plastic bags need 500 to 1000 years to decompose, are also invited into the food chain of the human via fish and other animals. In the slaughterhouses in Nairobi, some cows for human consumption were shed by about 20 bags in their stomachs.
“This is something we did not encounter 10 years ago, but it happens practically every day now,” says veterinarian Mbuthi Kinyanjui, as he observes men in white blooded uniforms shoveling bags in Plastics in bovine carcasses.
The Kenyan law even allows police to attack a person carrying a plastic bag. But Environment Minister Judy Wakhungu said law enforcement would concentrate first on manufacturers and suppliers.
After three failed attempts, it the country took 10 years to finally adopt the ban, and that does not matter to everyone.
Samuel Matonda, spokesman for the Kenyan Manufacturers’ Association, said the law would destroy 60,000 jobs and lead to the closure of 176 manufacturing companies. Kenya is one of the main exporters of plastic bags in the region. “The impacts will be very heavy,” he said. “It will even affect women who sell vegetables at the market – how will customers carry their purchases at home? ”
The major supermarket chains in the country, such as the French Carrefour and Nakumatt have already started offering cloth bags to their customers.