It was one of the most difficult things to do – to spot a Kenyan carrying a polythene bag this Monday as the government-imposed ban on polythene bags came to bear.
The streets of Nairobi were swamped with hawkers who overnight had switched from whatever else they had been selling to alternative bags of all sorts including travel bags which they encouraged pedestrians to buy to beat the polythene bags ban.
Wholesalers of packaging materials, who had been popular stockists of the polythene bags, had also switched to other alternatives.
Asami Packaging Ltd in the city was for the better part of Monday morning inundated with customers clamouring to buy alternative packaging materials.
The shop was overflowing with customers who elbowed each other in an attempt to catch the attention of the attendants behind the counter.
Ironically, the shop (Asami), which sells all sorts of packing material and plastic glasses, was still packing items in polythene bags.
But this could be due to exemptions on selected consumer products, primary industrial packaging and waste paper bags, which are in accordance with approved standards.
Sarah Kamunyu, a business lady in Kikuyu however declined to take goods packaged in polythene saying she did not want to be caught on the wrong side of the law.
“I don’t want to be arrested. I’d rather leave them behind than pay a Shs4 million fine. Right now the police are on high alert I don’t want to be arrested,” she told the shop attendant.
All the same, some Kenyans were still complaining of the high cost of the transition as reality on the ban hit home.
“Why accept plastic garbage bags but refuse the dry cleaning ones yet they are the same bags and (of the same) size?” an owner of a dry cleaning business who did not want to be quoted wondered.
“We are suffering. We have tried to talk to Nema about labelling our bags so that we take responsibility for any bags that are found disposed off in the wrong way but they won’t listen to us.
“I can’t imagine how much the now popular non-woven bag is going to cost for a large-size bag like the one we use for dry cleaning. Luckily most customers seem to understand the situation and are bringing their own bags,” he added.
In supermarkets, everything flowed smoothly with most stores selling the bags for a few shillings, except for Choppies which was packing items in old cartons or wrapping them in old newspapers for customers who bought one or two items.
Customers with items like water had to walk out of the supermarket with their items in their hands.