A number of institutions were Saturday psychologically preparing Kenyans for the ban on the use of plastic bags, which comes into force from Monday, by sending advisories to their clients.
Among them was White Rose Dry Cleaners, which told its customers that it would no longer use plastic bags for packaging of clothes.
“From August 28, we shall not give plastic bags anymore. Eco-friendly bags will be available at a small fee or kindly provide your own packaging,” it said in an SMS.
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Earlier in the week, top supermarkets in the country under the umbrella of the Retail Traders Association of Kenya (Retrak) placed an advertisement in local dailies with a similar message, that shoppers should get reusable bags “at a small fee” or they should bring their own.
The National Environment Management Authority (Nema) also stepped up its campaign with a text message to the majority of Kenyan mobile phone users on Friday.
“Plastic carrier bags ban takes effect on August 28. Afterwards, no import, manufacture or use of plastic bags in Kenya,” it said.
The penalty for being found using, manufacturing or importing the bags is stiff and it appears the traders want to stay on the safe side of the law.
“Any person who contravenes the provision of the gazette notice shall be liable to a fine of not less than Sh2 million and not more than Sh4 million, or imprisonment of a term of not less than one year but not more than four years or to both,” Nema says in a notice on its website.
Environment Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu on Saturday asked Kenyans to discard all condemned bags in their possession.
She said single-use polythene bags should be shunned.
“Instead, use the various reusable bags available,” she told the Sunday Nation.
Efforts by the Environment ministry received a boost Saturday when governors announced that they were in support of the ban.
“The Council of Governors (CoG) supports the ban and will work with the national government and other stakeholders to ensure that the ban comes into effect,” CoG chairman Josphat Nanok said in a statement.
Prof Wakhungu said the devolved governments will play a big role in the enforcement of the ban.
“Solid waste management is devolved. All counties are supportive of the ban and have put measures in place to enforce it,” she said.
Mr Nanok said the counties will create awareness on the issue and educate the public on the available environment-friendly options.
“The council urges the citizens to use alternative materials such as Manila paper, canvas, jute and biodegradable plastics,” he said.
Nema says the justification for the ban arose from a recent research it conducted together with the United Nations Environment Programme and the Kenya Institute of Public Policy Research and Analysis, which found that 100 million plastic bags are handed out annually in Kenya by supermarkets alone.
The environment protection agency further says the polythene bags not only clog the drainage and ruin the soil but also endanger human life, especially when used in packaging hot food.
Governors hold the same view as Nema.
“Apart from taking a century to degrade, plastic bags inhibit the absorption of soil nutrients and further lead to suffocation and indigestion in both land and aquatic life,” Mr Nanok said.
As from Monday, those who go shopping at Nakumatt, Carrefour, Tuskys, Naivas, Uchumi, Choppies, Khetias and other members of Retrak should prepare to part with some money if they do not carry their own packaging bags.
“The buyers should expect us to have new carrier bags, though they will attract a small charge.
“We believe it is in the range of Sh3, Sh5, Sh10 and Sh15,” Mr Willy Kimani, a Retrak director, said on Saturday.
“Over and above that, the use of cartons and other alternative packaging will be allowed,” he added.
He said the money supermarkets will charge is to cater partially for the price the businesses will incur in obtaining the bags.
“The amount of money we used to spend (on polythene) will now be spent in subsidising the cost,” Mr Kimani, who is also the Naivas chief operations officer, said.
In Mr Kimani’s view, the essence of the supermarkets’ move is to spark a culture change so that shoppers can be encouraged to reuse packaging materials.
As Kenya dumps plastic bags for more environment-friendly packaging material, a Nakuru man will be overjoyed for having pushed for the ban through various means.
Mr James Wakibia claims to be the first person to have used the #BanPlasticsKe hashtag on Twitter, through which various people pushed the Environment ministry to abolish plastics.
He first used the hashtag in 2015. Prof Wakhungu later tweeted back in support, after which the conversation became #IsupportBanPlasticsKe.
Before his campaign went online, Mr Wakibia had tried petitioning the Nakuru County Assembly to ban plastic bags, after being irked by the piling up of the stuff in the area.
“When it is windy or rainy, flimsy plastic bags are carried away from dumpsites to roads and other areas.
“I decided to focus on the bigger problem affecting dumpsites, which is the plastic bag issue,” he said.
But even after collecting 5,000 signatures to push for the ban, his efforts did not yield results.
His other tactic was to send letters on the topic to newspapers.
At one time, he wrote a hashtag on a placard that he carried around on the streets of Nakuru.
Prof Wakhungu praised a ruling by High Court judge Mweresa Eboso who, on Friday, refused to issue orders to halt the ban.
The judge said it was more in the public interest to abolish the packaging material than to rule in favour of manufacturers.