Kenyans on Monday appeared to have embraced the ban on plastic bags, with most small-scale traders and hawkers using recommended packages for their merchandise.
In many parts of the country, shoppers were seen carrying environment-friendly alternatives such as the non-woven carrier bags and various types of baskets as the ban took effect Monday.
Indeed, it was hard to spot anyone openly carrying a polythene bag.
The National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) sent out eight teams of inspectors in Nairobi to start monitoring the ban.
Chief corporate communications manager Evans Nyabuto said Nema’s director-general, Prof Geoffrey Wahungu, had dispatched the team to go around factories and supermarkets checking non-compliance and advising those who have not complied to do so.
“Currently we are not making arrests as has been claimed, but just confirming that the ban has been adhered to,” Mr Nyabuto said.
Nema also announced that no one should be harassed by police for failing to obey the ban, with head of inspection Wachira Bore saying their teams would in the next two weeks issue verbal warnings to those found with plastic bags.
“If one has a large stock they will confiscate it. But no penalties yet unless after the first warning one is found flouting the law a second time. And it is Nema to prosecute not the police,” he said.
In Nairobi, a number of butcheries the Nation visited have switched to grease-proof paper for wrapping meat, as miraa (khat) vendors opted for khaki paper bags.
The streets were swamped with hawkers who overnight had switched from whatever else they had been selling to alternative bags of all sorts including nylon tote shoulder travel bags that they encouraged pedestrians to buy to beat the polythene bags ban.
In abattoirs across Nairobi, plastic bags were being checked from the animals that were being slaughtered, with workers finding polythene bags in the stomachs of some of the slaughtered animals.
Supermarkets mainly opted for non-woven bags.
Most stores sold the bags for a few shillings. But Choppies was packing items in old cartons or wrapping them in newspapers.
Nakumatt, which was the first retail store to obey the ban, had ran out of bags at its Moi Avenue branch in Nairobi and customers without their own bags had to carry their shopping exposed.
Mr Simon Murage, the branch manager, said the bags had ran out on Sunday night, but they were expecting more.
The store was not charging for their carrier bags.
At Eastmatt Tom Mboya branch, Mr Moses Mwangi, the branch manager, said they were selling the small non-woven bag for Sh5 and a bigger sack-like bag for Sh25.
At Tuskys, the bags were going for Sh5 and Sh10 for the bigger ones.
Mr Mwangi however said there were customers who preferred to have their shopping packed in cartons or empty khaki flour bags for free.
“Interestingly, like half of the customers are walking in with their own packing material,” he added.
Naivas supermarket had their labelled non-woven carrier bags in four sizes, with the price ranging from Sh5 to Sh30.
At fast-food restaurants and eateries, especially those selling chips (French fries), customers had their takeaway orders in khaki bags with some complaining about the ban.
“I have been given chips and chicken in this bag and I do not even know if it will successfully reach my destination.
“This is bad, but we cannot do anything,” a customer from a fast-food joint in the city centre said.
At City Market, fish mongers, meat and chicken sellers complained that the bags were of low quality and left colour traces on what they packed for their customers.
“Customer numbers have gone down as most do not want to part with more money to buy the same thing. The bags are also of low quality yet expensive,” Ms Grace Miruka, a fishmonger, said.
Polythene bags wholesalers also switched to the alternatives.
Asami Packaging Ltd in the city was for the better part of Monday morning busy with customers seeking to buy alternative packaging materials.
The cost of the new bags was an issue with Ms Jenipher Wahome, a clothes retailer at Old Business Centre, complaining about the hefty amounts they have to pay for the alternatives.
“We just ordered the non-woven bags, which will cost us Sh500 for 50 bags, compared with the plastics, which only cost Sh280 for 50 bags.
Additional reporting by Walter Menya.
Hawkers in Nairobi make a killing from selling reusable bags as ban takes effect.