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

By Nicole Caldwell

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.