- On Monday, Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja said operations to weed out plastic paper bags will start in a week's time.
- The governor who spoke during Labour Day celebrations at Uhuru Gardens said the plastic bags contribute to poor drainage in the capital.
City Hall will next week launch a fresh crackdown to rid markets of the banned plastic carrier bags that are steadily making a comeback.
The Star three weeks ago highlighted the return of plastic bags in the Kenyan markets with spot checks showing most grocery shops, especially in the cities, were still using the plastics that were banned six years ago.
On Monday, Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja said operations to weed out plastic paper bags will start in a week's time.
The governor who spoke during Labour Day celebrations at Uhuru Gardens said the plastic bags contribute to poor drainage in the capital.
"In a week we are going to go into another operation to make sure that plastic paper bags are no longer in our markets because they are the ones clogging our drainage. We want to keep our city clean," Sakaja said.
He noted that despite the ban, many city residents were still using the plastic bags.
Sakaja said he had already reached an agreement with National Environmental Management Authority director general Mamo Mamo on the operation.
Monday was chilly with drizzles as Kenyans trooped to the historic Uhuru Gardens for Labour Day celebrations that was addressed by President William Ruto.
Sakaja acknowledged many residents who showed up for the celebrations experienced challenges brought about by poor drainage.
Most city highways and avenues are often flooded whenever it rains partly because drainages are clogged.
"A lot of illegal dumping has been going on in the city," Sakaja said. He said the county will hire some 3,500 youth to clean the city.
Nairobi is the headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme and Sakaja said it must live up to its expected standards.
The war on the banned plastic will come as one way of restoring the city's lost glory.
However, those using the plastics have heightened their attention claiming that the state did not provide them with an alternative.
They say authorities banned plastic carrier bags and they were not given alternatives.
“You cannot package some of the groceries in woven bags that were provided,” one of the traders who requested anonymity for fear of being arrested told the Star last month.
Those selling food also say that they have not been provided with an alternative.
In 2017, the Ministry of Environment banned the use of plastic carrier bags through a gazette notice of February 27.
The ban came into effect in August of that year.
Today, being found in possession of plastics attracts a fine of between Sh2 million and Sh4 million, or a jail term of between one and two years, or both.
Before 2017, about 100 million plastic bags were used in Kenyan supermarkets every year, with severe consequences to the environment.
But despite the ban, plastics are still in the market.
The National Environment Management Authority is aware of the return of plastic bags.
The agency has been carrying out a crackdown on those found with the banned items.
Mamo last month told the Star that more than 100 traders and three wholesalers/stockists of banned plastic carrier bags have so far been arrested and arraigned.
“The porous border posts and municipal markets are the hot spots majorly from across our borders,” Mamo, who a few months ago told the Star that the success rate of the implementation of the ban was at 95 per cent, said.
He said a joint government multi-agency team, which comprises Nema, National Police Service, Kenya Revenue Authority, customs, anti-counterfeits and other regulatory agencies and partnership with county governments for the market places has been working round the clock to make sure that the ban is enforced.
Mamo, however, said there are inadequacies as the authority has few environmental inspectors and resources to undertake robust surveillance and inspections country-wide and border posts.
Nema suspects that the banned plastics are coming from other countries such as Tanzania, Somalia and Uganda.
The authority has also been facing challenges in the border posts of Garissa, Mandera, Moyale, Busia, Taita Taveta and Namanga, among others.
The government has since banned single-use plastics in protected areas.
On June 5, 2019, Kenya also banned single-use plastics on beaches, national parks, forests and conservation areas.
The ban prohibits visitors from carrying single-use plastic water bottles, disposable cups, plates, cutlery and straws into national parks, forests, beaches and conservation areas.
But despite the stringent measures, the Kenyan market is still flooded with banned plastics even in the protected areas.
This happens even as top scientists warn that there could be more plastics than fish in the oceans by 2050, with even more repercussions.
Plastics are ingested through seafood, drinks and even common salt; they penetrate the skin and are inhaled when suspended in the air.
UNEP says at least 11 million tonnes of plastic are dumped into water bodies every year.
This is the equivalent of one garbage truck being dumped every minute.
The impacts of plastic production and pollution on the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature loss and pollution are a catastrophe in the making.
UNEP says exposure to plastics can harm human health, potentially affecting fertility, hormonal, metabolic and neurological activity and open burning of plastics contributes to air pollution.
Many are, however, hoping that the ongoing global efforts might turn the tide.