Kenya steps up efforts to stamp out 'plastic menace'

Plastic bags less than 30 microns thick could be phased out as part of plans to improve waste management in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

Kenya's plastic bag 'menace' causes livestock deaths and blocked sewers

Kenya's plastic bag 'menace' causes livestock deaths and blocked sewers

Drop-off points for bags are being set up in the city to increase plastic recycling, in an attempt to contain the menace caused by the polythene.

The authorities hope this will reduce litter, as well as cutting down on sewer blockages and livestock deaths attributed to plastic waste.

According to Kenya's National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), 13 drop-off points will be evenly spread out across the city and the polythene collected and recycled.

NEMA has received numerous complaints from members of the public about the environmental impact of plastic materials in the capital.

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Kenya Association of Manufactures (KAM) and other stakeholders have joined NEMA in launching the pilot waste management programme.

"There is apparent need for comprehensive interventions focused on sustainable management of polythene," said NEMA's Francis Kihumba, coordinator for the project.

"The pilot project on Sustainable Management Plastic Waste in Nairobi will address the plastic menace in the capital city. We are set to use environmentalists including the Nobel peace prize laureate Wangari Maathai in the extensive campaign on the plastic hazard," he said.

The campaign is intended to provide grassroots action to go hand in hand with ongoing consumer awareness and anti-littering campaigns.

The Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRI) has also called for a plastic bag levy, to be collected from either suppliers or directly from shoppers.

Past experience from Tanzania to Ireland suggests this would reduce the consumption and production of plastic bags considerably.

The policy on plastic management also proposes voluntary schemes such as a national code of practice for retailers.

"Such a code will commit retailers to specified reduction by voluntarily declaring the number of plastic bags issued within a specified period, increase the rate of recycling and introducing plastic bags from recycled material," says Clive Mutunga, Consultant with the Production sector Division, KIPPRA.

"As the experience of many countries has shown, a ban is the most effective way to deal with very thin bags considering their high vulnerability to littering, single user character, low price and poor recycling feasibility."

In Kenya an estimated 24 million plastic bags are given out monthly by supermarkets and other shops.

Supermarkets alone give out approximately one million plastic bags every year to shoppers in Nairobi.

By Ebby Nanzala, Nairobi correspondent


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