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As initiative kicks in, are Kenyans headed back to ‘kiondo’ life?

When the clock strikes midnight on Monday, August 28, 2017, it will be illegal to handle, use, sell or distribute plastics bags anywhere in Kenya.

This follows a decision early this year by the Government to ban the manufacture, importation and use of polythene bags.

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The ban was contained in a Kenya Gazette notice by Environment Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu and affects carrier bags and flat bags used for commercial and household packaging.

Plastic bags have been an important part of our lives for a long time.

They are cheap, convenient and widely available.

You drop by the supermarket in the evening, do your shopping and the purchased items are neatly wrapped in one or several plastic bags.

If you are a keen shopper, you will have noticed that a number of items you pick from the shelves such as bread, salt, rice, sugar and tissue paper among others are already packed in polythene bags.

Admittedly, this makes the shopping experience very convenient.

No worries and no charges.

Grocery store

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On your way out, you remember you need some fruits and vegetables so you drop by the grocery store. You pick your stuff and the attendant packs your purchases for you in clean, well-designed polythene bags.

Should you take a detour to the nearby boutique to pick clothing items or the mobile shop to purchase an electronic device, chances are all these will be packed in plastic bags.

Now comes the hard part. You get home with the dozens of multi-coloured, multi-layered plastic bags and wonder what to do with them.

Few of us, if any, return to the supermarket or grocery store with the same plastic bag from last time.

The bags are mostly dumped in the kitchen store; the larger, thicker ones may be reused for rubbish or for carrying various items within the home but ultimately, they find their way into the environment.

Plastic bags are a menace.

Not only are they unsightly but they also don’t biodegrade, at least not easily.

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Some perch on trees, some get buried in the soils and others find their way into water systems, including rivers, lakes and oceans.

They contaminate soils and water systems and harm life on land and water. Reports indicate that by 2050, global waters will have more plastic than fish, unless drastic measures are taken.

New lifestyle

Kenyans must henceforth adopt a new lifestyle. Let us call it the ‘kiondo’ lifestyle.

This lifestyle will have to revolve around the ‘kiondo’, a handwoven handbag made from sisal and has leather trimmings.

When you go shopping, remember to carry your ‘kiondo.’ When you leave home in the morning, remember to carry your ‘kiondo.’ You might just need it.

If you have a car, remember to have one, good-sized ‘kiondo’ permanently in your car. And when you’re on safari, don’t forget your ‘kiondo.’ You might come across items you want to buy.

The ‘kiondo’ lifestyle may not be convenient but we can make it fashionable.

‘Kiondo’ isn’t just ‘kiondo.’ It accounts for a significant part of SDG 14 (Life in Water) and SDG 15 (Life on Land).

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It means an environment free of plastics. It stands for a cleaner, safer and healthier environment. It represents a sustainable future. I stand for a ‘kiondo’ lifestyle.

Karin Boomsma is the project co-ordinator, Sustainable Inclusive Business Kenya (SIB), a partnership between the Kenya Private Sector Alliance and MVO Nederland.

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