Nema sends out officers, cops to ensure plastics ban compliance
All manufacturers and importers had until today to declare their remaining stock to Nema for necessary action. The inspectors will make sure the plastic bags are not sold
The National Environment Management Authority today flags off its inspectors and environment police to inspect whether manufacturers have complied with the plastic bag ban.
The ban takes effect today and consumers will be forced to embrace eco-friendly substitutes to avoid attracting a fine of between Sh2 million and Sh4 million, or a jail term of between one and two years, or both.
All manufacturers and importers had until today to declare all their remaining stocks to Nema for necessary action. The officers will also be making sure the plastic bags are not available on sale at the counter or given freely outside the industrial setting.
Environment CS Judi Wakhungu through a February 27 Gazette notice banned the use, manufacture and importation of all plastic bags for commercial and household packaging.
Manufacturers were given six months to clear their stock.
Speaking in Nairobi, Nema director general Geoffrey Wahungu said they will roll out civic education targetting the “kadogo economy” before enforcing the law on consumers.
The law, he said, will be enforced with the assistance of the county governments and Nema inspectors, whose names are already gazetted.
“We are asking members of the public not to be worried because most of them are in a dilemma. We will first give them adequate notice to get alternatives,” he said.
“Our officers will have Nema uniforms and Nema cards for identification.”
Soon after implementation, Nema intends to pass the baton to the county governments. Its corporate affairs department says the ban applies to all plastic carrier bags commonly known as ‘Juala’ and flat bags used for commercial and household packaging.
Flat bags are those used mainly in groceries and for garbage collection.
In the flat bag category, exemption is extended to bags used for industrial primary packaging where the product has direct contact with the plastic and is done at the source.
The exemption is subject to legibly and permanently labelled bags to indicate the name of the industry manufacturing the product, the end-user and physical addresses for ease of monitoring and traceability.
This means the flat bags used for collection of garbage and hazardous materials such as medical waste, chemicals and waste liners are exempted, so long as they are legibly and permanently labelled and colour-coded and are incinerated together with the waste.
Garbage liners are also exempted on condition that they are clearly labelled. The liners will not be dumped together with the waste, but will be emptied and reused or recycled by the licensed waste collector and transporter — the end user.
With regard to duty-free shop bags, Nema’s website indicates that the ban will apply to the use, manufacture and importation of the banned plastics within Kenya. Since duty free shops at airports use flat bags as garbage and hazardous waste liners, “any traveller coming into Kenya with duty-free bags shall be required to leave them at the entry points,” Nema says.
The increased use of plastic bags has been the leading cause of environmental degradation. With the enforcement of the ban, the menace will eventually be eradicated.
The alternative carrier bags announced by the ministry will have to be made from non-plastic materials such as sisal, paper, cloth or papyrus.
Woven polypropylene plastic bags (gunny bags), non-woven polypropylene plastic bags (cloth-like bags) and 100-per cent biodegradable bags (starch and cassava bags) are other named alternatives.
There is no exemption for clothing stores. Some dry-cleaning departments such as Flash have indicated they will stop using plastic bags as part of their packaging and encouraged their clients to carry their own or they will issue alternative packaging at a small fee. Supermarkets such as Naivas have also introduced alternative carrier bags.
Meanwhile, the Green Belt Movement yesterday commended the Environment ministry and its CS Wakhungu for “the bold and critical step in ensuring long-term sustainability of our environment”.
“We look forward to working with the ministry of Environment to support the implementation of this ban as we protect our natural environment from pollutants,” it said in a statement.
GDM said the long-awaited ban is welcome and will contribute greatly to reducing the problems associated with the use and improper disposal of plastics.
Besides the littering problem, which is apparent in most urban centres, plastic waste, air pollution, habitat destruction, human health problems — that include lung and respiratory disorders — and animal deaths are but a few of the other complications.
The movement further urged Kenyans to support “the noble cause that guarantees a cleaner and healthier environment to the future generations”.
On Friday, the Kenya Association of Manufacturers lost a bid to block the ban’s implementation. The High Court in Nairobi declined to suspend the ban on grounds that the need to conserve the environment overrides commercial interests.
Environment CS Judi Wakhungu checks carrier bags made from hyacinth at KICC, Nairobi, on Thursday