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Shopping outlets opt for new packaging after plastic ban

Enterprising sellers of alternative packaging made roaring business as the ban on plastic bags took effect on Monday.

In major cities across the country, traders stayed away from plastic bags to avoid hefty fines.

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The Gazette notice dated February 28 issued a ban on two categories of plastic bags – carrier bags and flat bags with or without handles, but exempted industries using such bags in handling and disposing of hazardous and biomedical waste after clearance by the National Environment Management Authority (Nema). Polythene bags used as garbage bin liners have also been exempted from the ban.

Despite the unpreparedness, Nakuru residents seemed to have embraced the ban, with food vendors resorting to using serviettes and nylon bags.

In some supermarkets, where there were large numbers of shoppers preparing for the opening of schools, there was a hitch in the supply of alternative bags, with some outlets limiting their number for every shopper.

In several food joints, serviettes and old newspapers were used to wrap food.

At Gilanis Supermarket, shoppers were only allowed to buy  a maximum of two medium-size bags at Sh30, prompting parents who were shopping for their school-going children to complain.

Carton boxes

“The bags are too small to carry shopping for three months, yet an individual is only limited to two. I have three children headed to different schools, yet I am being restricted to only two bags. I wonder how this will work,” Ms Fatuma Mohamed said.

She said the ban took effect at a time when people were not prepared and wrappings were needed most.

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At Choppies Supermarket, carton boxes were in use as there were no eco-friendly bags on sale.

Those operating butcheries appeared to be  finding it harder to cope.

“There are some pieces of meat which will be hard to sell without the use of plastic bags unless customers come with their own bags. I have not sold mince meat since morning because of lack of good packaging,” said Mr Simon Mbugua, who is now charging an extra Sh50 for packaging.

In Eldoret town, sellers of alternative bags at the main market had a field day as vendors and residents, keen to be on the safe side of the law, scrambled for the new products.

“Although the ban on plastic bags comes with hitches, there is a good side to it. We have found a market for these alternative biodegradable bags which we bought from a supplier that delivered them from Nairobi today,” said Joyce Wangare, who was selling the bags on wholesale.

The bags were selling in different sizes at Sh300 and Sh400 per pack that contains 50 pieces. This translates to between Sh6 and Sh8 per piece.

A spot check by The Standard further established that Nakumatt, Eldomatt, and Khetia supermarkets had notified clients to carry their own bags or buy alternative ones as they shop.

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Most students returning to school and who had shopped in these outlets had their shopping stuffed in carton boxes and biodegradable bags.

Mary Njogu, the Uasin Gishu county executive committee member in charge of Environment and Natural Resources, said there is no turning back on the implementation of the ban, noting that her office was working with the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) to ensure compliance.

Most small-scale traders in Kakamega town and Luanda market had not complied with the plastic ban law.

Biggest challenge

This is despite a warning from Western Regional Coordinator Mongo Chimwaga that security agencies would implement the ban on plastic bags ‘to the fullest’.

Mr Chimwaga said supermarkets operating in major towns in Kakamega, Bungoma, Busia, and Vihiga counties had heeded the ban but small-scale traders had yet to comply.

“Plastic bags have become the biggest challenge to solid waste management in Kenya. This has become an environmental hazard and must be fought by all means,” Chimwaga said.

However, a few traders, among them Phoebe Akoyo of Kakamega town, was seen packaging groundnuts in brown A4 envelopes. Phanice Asiko, another trader, was also packaging onions in the envelopes.

Kisumu recorded sluggish business as the ban on the use of plastic bags took affect.

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Most traders and supermarkets struggled to cope with the new order of using alternative packaging materials, which were still in short supply.

Police, accompanied by Nema staff, patrolled the town and its suburbs but had not made any arrests by 2pm as residents tried to comply.

No residents was spotted carrying shopping in plastic bags, as has been the case before.

In Homa Bay, Nema officials collected 45 bales of polythene carrier bags from business premises in Homa Bay town yesterday as they enforced the ban.

The county environment officer, Johana Ouma, said the bags were surrendered the by operators of the business premises.

Jacinta Sewe, a grocery vendor, complained that before the ban was made effective, the Government should have made alternative environmental friendly bags available.

Evans Nyabuto, the chief communications manager at Nema, said the agency wrote to the manufacturers and importers of plastic carrier bags declaring dead stock and prohibiting the supply of plastic bags in Kenya.

“We are establishing dropoff points at supermarkets outlets and recycling companies where people with plastic bags in their households can drop them,” said Nyabuto.

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In Nyeri town, residents and businesses were struggling to come to terms with the ban.

At Mudavadi and Whispers park, vegetable customers made do with small gunny bags which were provided by the vendors.

At Naivas Nyeri supermarket, the bags were sold to clients at Sh10 while in Mathai Supermarket, the clients had an option of bags ranging from Sh7 to Sh50, depending on size.

In Mombasa, residents were warned of arrests should they defy the ban.

Nema County Director Stephen Wambua said last evening that, in conjunction with the county government, they would arrest people who have not complied with the ban.

Scores of traders in Taita Taveta complained  the ban had adversely affected their business.

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