Kenya Passes World's Toughest Plastic Bag Ban To Fight Pollution

Kenyans are taking plastic bag pollution very seriously. As of Monday, get caught so much as using one—let alone producing or selling them—and you could face up to four years in prison or $40,000 in fines. It’s the harshest punishment in the world for plastic bags, coming from a country joining more than 40 others to curb pollution. And it confronts what has perhaps been the most common lifestyle item—and most harmful—of the last 40 years.

Something has to be done about all the plastic bags polluting the planet—and fast. 

The extreme measures come from a very evident pollution crisis.

"If we continue like this, by 2050, we will have more plastic in the ocean than fish," Habib El-Habr, an expert on marine litter working with the U.N. Environment Programme in Kenya, told The Independent. Plastic shopping bags are notorious for strangling sea turtles, asphyxiating seabirds, and causing extensive internal damage when consumed by marine animals including dolphins and whales.

And it’s not just the pollution that is so dangerous: El-Habr said plastic now regularly enters the human food chain by way of fish and other animals. In Nairobi, for example, cows at slaughterhouses have been found with more than 20 bags in their stomachs.

Plastic bags are also a major eyesore throughout Nairobi, Kenya’s capital; and pile up into towers at various dumpsites throughout the country. That’s because supermarkets alone give out 100 million plastic bags in Kenya every year, according to the United Nations Environmental Program.

There are now almost 50 countries taxing, banning or imposing fines on plastic bags.

Almost four dozen nations have joined Kenya in banning, partly banning, or taxing single-use plastic bags. This includes taxes imposed by Denmark, Ireland and Scotland; bans in Italy, Brazil, and Bangladesh; and fines for giving customers plastic bags at checkout in countries like Mexico.

The minimum punishment for using, manufacturing or importing bags in the East African country is a $19,000 fine, or one year in prison. The country did make one exemption, for plastic bags produced for industrial purposes. This is Kenya’s third attempt at banning plastic bags. The first, about a decade ago, failed in large part because of a lack of enforcement and implementation. That has caused some people to view the new ban pessimistically; doubtful it will be a success either.

The ban will likely be enforced (at first) just against bag suppliers. 

At least for now, it’s unlikely that you’d be arrested for walking down the street with a plastic bag filled with groceries. "Ordinary wananchi [“common man”] will not be harmed," Judy Wakhungu, Kenya's environment minister, told Reuters. Still, the residual effects could hurt part of Kenya even while healing another.

"The knock-on effects will be very severe," Samuel Matonda, spokesman for the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, told The Guardian. "It will even affect the women who sell vegetables in the market—how will their customers carry their shopping home?" Matonda estimates the ban will take 60,000 jobs from the economy and close doors on 176 manufacturers; as Kenya is a very large supplier and manufacturer of plastic bags throughout the region.

NewsChina Launches World’s First Fully Electric Cargo Ship

China created a completely electric cargo ship that can travel about 50 miles per charge, and later charge while it’s being unloaded. This new vessel represents a new standard for electric shipbuilders, as it's the first of its kind. 

5 days ago
NewsHonda Tests Vehicle-To-Grid Capabilities For Electric Cars In Germany

Honda is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology by adding it to their charging station at the Offenbach headquarters. The trial run, which aims to provide more efficient renewable energy, will allow them to determine if they'll be adding the feature to future EVs.

5 days ago
FoodFrance Tops Sustainability Charts For Reducing Food Waste

A study that examines how well countries advocate for and enact food waste policies has found that France is leading the world when it comes to ending food waste. The U.S. ranked number 24. 

5 days ago
NewsCandy Giant 'Mars' Wants To Cut Deforestation From Supply Chain

Mars, the candy giant, is looking to team up with others -- even competitors -- in an effort to thwart issues like deforestation and human rights abuse. This is in addition to the $1 billion they've spent on their own sustainability program.

5 days ago
Stay Green
Sign up for our daily newsletter
Quantcast