Banning plastic bags will result in the death of an industry worth more than Sh100 billion and employing thousands, manufacturers have said, as they started the fight back against the government’s ban on the bags in the next six months.
They have asked Parliament to suspend the implementation of the ban and change the law to come up with more innovative ways to manage waste and recommend the establishment of a levy to fund that.
The Kenya Association of Manufacturers (Kam) argues that the ban will kill a Sh100-billion industry in which investors have put in more than Sh88 billion, in addition to causing massive job losses.
Their petition was presented to the National Assembly by Kisumu West MP Olago Aluoch on Wednesday afternoon, just a day before Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich praised the ban announced by his Environment counterpart Prof Judy Wakhungu via a notice in the Kenya Gazette on February 28.
The opposition by the manufacturers through their influential lobby group is bound to develop into a major debate on the prudence of the policy and whether the problem is, as they say, about waste management, rather than the use of the bags.
There is also the bigger question of how waste should be managed in the large and economically significant cities in the country such as Nairobi and Mombasa where the management of waste by the respective county governments has been a perpetual problem.
In Nairobi, a plan to move the overflowing dumpsite from Dandora has been held up by a mix of political and policy issues while in Mombasa, the relocation of the dumpsite from Kibarani at the entrance to the island from the mainland has started, albeit with a lot of toxic smoke as the old rubbish is burnt.
According to the Kam, it is the disposal of all manner of waste that is a problem.
“Polythene is one amongst materials found in the environment and a large portion of these waste materials are not being collected and treated in an environmentally sound manner to ensure disposal and this is a real challenge to the environment,” it says in the petition.
It cites a report by the United Nations Environment Programme and the International Solid Waste Association that stated that 7 to 10 billion tonnes of urban waste are produced every year and three billion people don’t have access to proper ways of disposing of their waste. This, the two agencies said, is fuelled by population growth, urbanisation and rising consumption. “The volumes of waste are likely to even double in lower income African and Asian cities by 2013,” they added.
“The ban imposed by the Cabinet Secretary for Environment does not resolve the problems identified by experts or create a sustainable approach to addressing the problem,” the Kam said.
On the economics side, the association said, there are more than 176 plastic manufacturing companies in Kenya, which are 3.4 per cent of all the manufacturers combined, with 60,000 employees directly and more than 600,000 others employed indirectly through retailers.