Kenyans have a variety of options they can use to carry their shopping to replace plastic bags which are being outlawed beginning Monday.
Bag makers showed their new innovations in Nairobi this week even as the High Court threw out a case seeking to reverse the ban.
While manufacturers and some businesses have been fighting the impending ban, enterprising Kenyans have been hard at work creating biodegradable bags that can provide a similar service without degrading the environment.
From organic bags, poly proplain (PP) bags, sisal bags, vegetable fibre bags, recycled cloth bags to recycled plastic bags, the choices are many.
The once famous kiondoo is also set to make a comeback to the shopping scene as Kenyans prepare to enter a new retail era.
A majority of Kenyans support the impending ban. However, small scale traders and those living in low income neighbourhoods where plastic bags are extremely popular due to their various uses in the ‘kadogo economy’ pleaded for more time to adjust.
“I think it is a good initiative. I read somewhere that fish consume the plastic bags then distribute them as waste on the ocean floor which is bad,” said Stephanie Okungu, a student.
“Does it mean that we have to carry food with our hands after we make purchases? Even carry-on bags can result in dirty food, particularly mandazis or meat,” said Michael Kinyanjui.
In most low income neighbourhoods such as Muthurwa, kiosks and open air markets are still wrapping food in colourless plastic bags oblivious of the heavy penalties that will be imposed once the ban takes effect.
Yes, punish those who defaced our cities
However as we discovered a PP bag, which is made from recycled plastic bags with calcium, can do a similar job since it is waterproof and costs only Sh6.
Meat and vegetables
“It can even be used to carry meat and vegetables. You can re-use it for up to about 10 years but it will degrade if you leave it in the sun or bury it,” an official from Text Plast Industries said.
Their bags have already been picked up by meat processors Kenchick and the Kenya Meat Commission.
In the corridors of justice the High Court threw out an application by the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), businessmen Frederick Gichuhi and Stephen Mwangi, saying it did not reach the required threshold.
“The applicants have failed to show that the order will have a serious implication on their business since its only two types of plastic bags that are outlawed,” said Justice Benard Eboso.
“Deciding to suspend the ban will severely injure the rights of the public,” said Justice Eboso.
Yes, punish those who defaced our cities
For the last two days thousands of eager Kenyans have been thronging the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) to learn and purchase the bags that will be allowed by law.
Among those who have come up with the most outstanding alternatives is Sai Green Africa Organic Bags, which has created bags from imported vegetable waste and cassava starch. Its bags have a similar feel and look with plastic bags but degrade after 180 days.
Ameetpal Sign, the company’s CEO, said they are yet to decide on pricing since their innovation has not yet been approved by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).
“This bag can be used seven times and it dissolves in hot water. It is also not harmful to animals since it is made from vegetables,” he said.
Dedan Kimathi University Engineering student Amani Wanjau and his friends have been collecting old shirts in campus and converting them to bags that can carry up to 10 kilos of luggage.
So popular are their Sh90 bags that they were sold out at the KICC by mid-day during the two-day expo. “We have a network of tailors who do this for us.
“This ban for those who are entrepreneurial is a frontier for new opportunities because a lot of jobs will be created,” he said.
NEMA has said it would establish an environmental police unit to enforce the ban. Those who will be found with plastic bags will be fined Sh2 million or spend a year in jail.