ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION

Kenya to engage Uganda, Tanzania on plastic ban

Kenya’s hard stance against plastic pollution comes weeks to the resumption of the fifth UN assembly

In Summary

• On February 27, 2017, Kenya’s Environment ministry banned the use of plastic carrier bags through a gazette notice. The ban came into effect in August that year.

• 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.

Nema director general Mamo B Mamo in Kisumu.
ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION: Nema director general Mamo B Mamo in Kisumu.
Image: FAITH MATETE.

Kenya is set to champion Uganda and Tanzania to fully enforce the ban on plastic carrier bags.

This even as the government announces that compliance is at 95 per cent.

Nema director general Mamo Mamo told the Star on Monday that the authority has put in place various measures to curb the banned plastics nationally and regionally.

Mamo said the ban at the regional level, will be implemented with the help of the Director General’s Forum from three East Africa countries.

“We are reviving this forum so that we are able to address environmental issues. This is because environmental issues are transboundary,” Mamo said, adding that the forum being revived has been moribund for some time.

Mamo said the DGs from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania will lead these efforts in their respective countries.

There after, we can expand to all Eastern African countries, he said.

Kenya’s hard stance against plastic pollution comes weeks before the resumption of the fifth session of the UN assembly.

The assembly will take place in person and online at the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, from February 28 to March 2.

UNEA-5 will be followed by a special session of the UN Environment Assembly to commemorate the 50th anniversary of UNEP, set to be held from March 3-4.

UNEA is the highest-level meeting on the state of the environment.

The assembly meets biennially to set priorities for global environmental policies and develop international environmental law.

The decisions and resolutions taken up by member states at the assembly define the UNEP’s Programme of Work.

The assembly will deliberate on the possible establishment of an international negotiating committee.

The committee will kick-start work towards a global and legally binding agreement to address plastic pollution.

Given the scale and challenge of the global plastic pollution crisis, the discussions could represent the most important development on the global environmental agenda since the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2015.

The discussions will be between the member states, as well as with the private sector, civil society and other participants.

The assembly will consider other critical issues, including nature-based solutions and biodiversity, green recovery and circular economy and nitrogen management.

On February 27, 2017, Kenya’s Environment ministry banned the use of plastic carrier bags through a gazette notice.

The ban came into effect in August that year.

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.

For instance, a study supported by Nema in 2017 showed more than 50 per cent of livestock had ingested plastics.

The study conducted in Dagoreti, Kiserian and Kenya Meat Commission showed that affected livestock was weak, with lower milk and beef production.

The government says the ban will help protect the environment and improve living standards.

Despite the ban, however, plastic bags are still being smuggled into the country.

It is suspected that the plastics come from Tanzania, Somalia and Uganda.

The authority has been facing challenges in Garissa, Mandera, Moyale, Busia, Taita Taveta, Namanga and other border posts.

On June 5, 2019, Kenya 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.

Earlier, Mamo had told the Star that other forms of plastics were becoming one of the biggest catastrophes of our generation and a major threat to biodiversity.

At the country level, Mamo said Nema is working closely with county governments to ensure the banned plastic carrier bags are addressed.

“We have developed a framework of a corporation with Council of Governors on the devolved environmental functions which is solid waste management, noise pollution and air pollution,” he said.

Mamo said Nema has already gazetted over 100 environmental inspectors for the county government, to help the authority in the enforcement of the ban.

“We have also brought on board markets supervisors of various county governments especially in major towns. They will assist us in ensuring that they get rid of banned plastics in the markets,” he said.

Mamo said the authority has also produced an Environmental Performance Index. 

The tool will access how counties are doing in terms of environmental parameters like pollution control including the banned plastics bags, environmental governance and collection of waste.

The DG said the Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act No. 8 of 1999 (EMCA) is set to be reviewed through a bill.

This will ensure that counties are given clear mandates in terms of implementation of devolved environmental functions.

“The gaps are a response from the counties in enforcing the plastic ban and also ensuring we operate under the multi-agency teams,” he said.

Mamo said the authority has prepared a coordination framework to enhance the coordination of different stakeholders.

This will include county governments so that they are able to enforce the plastic bag ban at the county level.

(Edited by Bilha Makokha)