Image of branded plastic carrier bags in Kenya (retrieved from Kenya Climate Innovation Centre website)

The plastic bag ban initiated by NEMA has been met with mixed reactions, and these mainly negative. Comments have come in from left, right and centre decrying the ban due to the economic effect it shall have on a nation that already has a high percentage of its population unemployed (and counting). With the industry being linked to over 9,000 jobs, no one wants to see it go. And don’t think that the support you see for the ban online does mean it’s supported equally as fervently offline. The masses most affected by this ban are not the individuals on Facebook and twitter retweeting every NEMA and MENR tweet with their added nods of approval. The masses are the kadogo economy dependants who get everything sub-divided in those convenient, flat plastic bags.

This plastic bag ban is the wake-up call for Kenya. A wake-up call for all developing countries really; developing countries who have been crying foul as countries globally dragged the climate change negotiations on and on when they were facing the brunt of the fall out from the warmer global temperatures. Environmental activists have been calling for action from these callous northerners. Action to slow down the effects that THEIR development is wreaking on our countries. “We are developing, we weren’t the cause of whatever is currently ailing the planet” we cry as we point fingers at the global North.

And then the plastic bag ban comes and we assume the exact same position as the constantly negotiating countries. Faced with the idea that WE, a less developed nation, have to change our ways for the sake of the environment leads us to immediately question this move, especially considering that it shall hurt us financially – All those jobs!

These sentiments may be shared by a lot more than will comment on this piece with rage but dear Kenyans, it is not the end of the world. Changes in the status quo cannot solely be carried out by the developed countries while we carry on with life(business) as usual. We may be a developing country but conversations on realising what it does mean to contribute towards sustainable change as developing countries need to begin. And one of those ways is the banning of plastic bags. Multiple views have been shared on how the government is going about this the wrong way,  and I do agree with some of those views – this ban reeks of unpreparedness and a lack of indepth analysis as to the possible alternatives for all parties involved. But we are Kenyans, we are resourceful. Once upon a time we lived without plastic bags. let us go back to that time when things were easier and our animals did not happen upon plastic on their grazing lands.

Necessity is indeed the mother of invention.

 

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Comments on: "Woe unto Kenyans, they must join the world in the fight for sustainability" (2)

  1. Do you have an ideas on how to cope without plastic?

    In Rwanda, I think (I don’t remember, it was 6 years ago) that the ban is on the small bags for groceries, packaging, etc. However, garbage bags could still be in use.

  2. Rwanda banned plastic bags in 2008. However, a black market has established itself in the country for the contraband items since that time.
    In Kenya, only carrier bags and flat bags have been banned. These are the single use shopping bags that even recyclers do not bother to collect. Alternative shopping bags have been on display at KICC Ecofair (organised by NEMA) since 24th August but unfortunately ending today.
    The garbage bags were the most contentious issue and NEMA has issued a statement saying they are exempt from the ban (so long as they come stamped with the waste service providers logo). The problem shall definitely arise in low income areas where residents dump there waste right in such carrier bags right out on the street. The city shall have to ensure residents are supplied with trash cans as well as waste skips every hundred meters or so to prevent the unsightly piles

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