The Kenyan government banned the use of plastic paper bags in a move dubbed #PlasticBanKE on social media. The aim was to restore this once beautiful city to its glory and make it eco-friendly. However, there’s been a mixed reaction from the public who feel the ban isn’t practical. The question, therefore, is are we a cleaner and eco-friendly nation after the plastic ban?
After years of delayed enforcement, the plastic ban finally came into force. It carries a stiff penalty of up to Ksh 2,000,000 for any offender. This is one of the stiffest penalties in the world which some may argue is unnecessary. However, as extreme as it seems, it was the government’s way to ensure that the ban is taken with the seriousness it deserves.
Currently, global warming is one of the most discussed issues around the world. Plastics are some of the elements that cause global warming. In a recent study, it was found that plastic emits gases similar to greenhouses which affect the ozone layer. The study noted that low-density polythene emits these gases when exposed to the sun. Therefore, this plastic paper bag ban is a step in the right direction to becoming an eco-friendly nation.
It’s a bit of a stretch to expect Nairobi to look like Copenhagen or even Kigali barely two years after the ban. However, you’ll notice a significant change. Our drainages don’t clog as much anymore because of plastic and marketplaces are rid of plastic waste. You’re less likely to encounter plastic bags thrown on the streets compared to before. The streets are also visibly cleaner.
Our animals are also safe from plastic. Previously, abattoirs would find plastic in 3 out of 10 animals they slaughtered. It has gone down to 1. We know the harmful effect plastic has had on our animals, especially marine life. It’s said that there are masses of plastic floating in the ocean that are bigger than some continents. Such plastic bans help curb the situation.
However, how cooperative are Kenyans during this ban? I must say, Kenyans took it with its seriousness. Though you may see a trader here and there using these banned paper bags, most of them are keen to avoid them. As usual, Kenyans have also found a great use for plastic waste. In Watamu, women collect plastic waste along the beach and recycle them to earn a living.
How safe are these alternatives, though? Are they eco-friendly? There were rumours that these alternative bags were just as bad as plastic bags. I find that hard to believe for two reasons. First, these alternative bags are reusable. Additionally, there’s a new market for these bags thus creating employment. The bags go for around Ksh 15 to Ksh 30 which discourages people from discarding them.
It’s evident that the plastic ban has inspired innovations as well as helped us become a cleaner nation. However, we’re far from being eco-friendly – we still need to find a way to deal with our plastic bottles. It will take joint efforts from the world at large to become eco-friendly.
I’m a content writer, bibliophile and travel enthusiast. I have worked in the digital space for over 5 years which has exposed me to a variety of lifestyle topics and peeked my interests in beauty, fashion, travel and wellness.