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Flurry of activity as deadline for ban on plastic bags nears

Are you ready to recycle the shopping bag you used the last time you went shopping?

You had better be, as retailers say they are set and ready to go when the polythene bags ban comes into effect on Monday.

Spot checks in the city on Monday and Tuesday revealed that many retail stores were still using polythene bags as they wait for Monday, the day set by the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) for implementation of the ban.

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STOCKS
Most have stopped supplying the all-too-familiar polythene bags branded with their logos.

Tuskys, Carrefour, and Game supermarkets are using plain white or black polythene bags while Choppies (previously Ukwala), Eastmatt and Naivas are still using the branded bags.

Tuskys and Choppies said they were clearing their stocks.

COST

The stores have been reminding shoppers that they will be required to bring their own bags for consecutive shopping trips to avoid incurring packaging costs every time they shop.

“Most of the retail stores are still using plastic bags based on the fact that they already had stock.

“But it has been agreed that by August 28, they will all transition,” Ms Wambui Mbarire, chief executive officer at Retail Trade Association of Kenya (Retrak), said in a phone interview.

“We will have a whole range of alternatives, some costing as low as Sh3, as a cheap option at the till for those with no packaging material of their own.

“The whole purpose of this is to inculcate in Kenyans a culture of re-use and reduce,” she added.   

RETAILERS
Nema gave the plastic ban notice on February 28, 2017, allowing a six-month grace period for all manufacturers and users of polythene bags to make necessary adjustments and comply by August 28.

Retailers were required to clear stocks within the grace period.

Come Monday next week, all retailers will have to declare their remaining stocks to the authority.

ECO-FRIENDLY
Exemptions apply to only selected consumer products, primary industrial packaging and waste paper bags, which are in accordance with approved standards.

Most retail stores said they had made plans for a smooth transition.

The samples the stores had as an alternative were of the semi-woven kind that is already in use at Nakumatt stores.

Nakumatt was the first to make the transition with alternatives for shoppers to either buy their branded blue label eco-friendly reusable-carry bags, at Sh50 and Sh75, or use the free smaller not very durable woven bag.

RE-USABLE
The Game Store at Garden City said it already has a woven bag, which has been approved by Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs).

“We have had the re-usable woven bags all along, but Kenyans are not used to buying packing for their shopping. That is why we have been using polythene bags,” general manager Chris Steenkamp said.

“The plastic bags we have been giving out are cheap. That is why we can’t afford to give the alternative woven and more expensive ones for free,” he said.

“We’ll be selling them at Sh4 while the bigger, woven one will cost Sh20.”

PALM BASKETS
He said they were also looking at other options, including a polythene bag-like material that is bio-degradable and dissolves in hot water.

“It is still very expensive but we’re in talks with the seller.”

“He has promised that he will bring the price down,” he said, adding that these bags would be ideal for packaging fresh vegetables and wet items.

Chandarana-Food Plus at Two Rivers has already stocked papyrus and palm baskets that are retailing at Sh80.

It also has cotton bags for sale at Sh110.

AWARENESS
But like all other supermarkets (except Nakumatt), the store is still packaging shoppers’ items in polythene bags.

Himesh Kumar, the manager of the store, said they were clearing their stock before the ban comes into effect on Monday.

He said the extra cost is a good thing.

“It will encourage shoppers to return with the same bag each time they come shopping.

“The ban on polythene bags has been publicised enough. All Kenyans know about it. So there should be no excuses after August 28.”

BEHAVIOUR
He observed that men were the most averse to re-use of bags, and urged them to start putting shopping bags in the boots of their cars after shopping.

“We will offer to push the carts of shopping to their cars so that the attendants can pack the items in their baskets when they forget to bring them to the store.”

Zucchini stores also have woven bags that will cost Sh60.

They have asked their suppliers to change their packaging to either container or brown paper bags, according to Sissy Muranda, a supervisor at Garden City store.  

CUSTOMERS
Clothes stores have also sought alternatives, with LC Waikiki saying it is preparing its remaining stocks for declaration to Nema.

Platform, another international clothes store, said it was sending back about six-months’ worth of bags to its Lebanon head office.

Small traders, too, are shifting to new packaging.

Fanice Waithira, a milk vendor in Pangani estate, Nairobi, is still using the small transparent bags to package milk but says customers will have to bring their own containers.

Traders at Retail Market (Marigiti), who mostly use recycled polythene bags, are urging their customers to carry their own shopping bags.

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