Kenya proposes plastic bag ban in new waste strategy

Kenya should ban the use of flimsy plastic bags and impose a hefty levy on thicker ones to rid the country of an increasing environmental and health menace, a report by the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA) has found.

Over two million plastic bags, a lot of which are so thin they can only be used once before being thrown away, are now handed out every year in Nairobi alone, the report says.

Once discarded, they can block gutters and drains, choke farm animals and marine wildlife and pollute the soil as they break down. Nobel Peace Prize winner and assistant environment minister Wangaari Mathaai, has also linked the plastic bag litter as they can fill with rainwater creating ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

The report, funded by UNEP and the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) of Kenya, proposes imposing the ban on bags less than 30 microns thick. Any cash raised would go towards the setting up of efficient and effective recycling schemes. The levy could also become a blue-print for similar schemes aimed at the rising tide of waste confronting Kenya and other countries across Africa.

The proposal was just one of many in the report looking into solutions for the Kenyan Solid waste management sector.

The report was launched at a meeting of UNEP’s Governing Council in Nairobi. Klaus Toepfor, UNEP Executive Director, said: “I applaud this thoughtful and comprehensive study on the problems and possible solutions to Kenya and particularly Nairobi’s waste problems. Wastes are an increasing problem everywhere, particularly in developing countries. Plastic bags can be the start, the test bed, to what I hope will be wide ranging and creative action to cut pollution and stimulate new, modern businesses and jobs.”

Only about 25% of the 1,500 tonnes of solid waste generated every day in Nairobi are currently collected, mostly from high-income homes. However, formal collection services for waste produced in slums and unplanned settlements – where around 60% of Nairobi’s residents live – are virtually non-existent.

By David Hopkins

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