Kenya will now punish anyone with up to four years in jail or a fine of $ 40,000 (about Ugx. 144m) anyone arrested making, selling or importing plastic bags, putting in place one of the world’s toughest bans on the ubiquitous item that is blamed for clogging oceans and killing marine life.
Kenyan shoppers are thought to use 100 million plastic bags a year, according to the United Nations
The Kenyan government has encouraged people to tote reusable alternatives including bags made of paper, cloth and sisal, a plant with stiff leaves.
The new rule, announced in March and put into effect on Monday, also means that garbage bags will be taken off supermarket shelves and visitors entering Kenya will be required to leave their duty-free shopping bags at the airport.
Kenya joins more than 40 other countries that have banned, partly banned or taxed single use plastic bags, including China, France, Rwanda, and Italy. In Rwanda, plastic bags are illegal, and visitors are searched at the airport. Britain introduced a 5 pence charge at stores in 2015, leading to a plunge of more than 80 percent in the use of plastic bags
In informal settlements, where most of the city’s residents live, plastic bags are used as ‘flying toilets’
Conservationists including The Green Belt Movement and Greenpeace Africa have lauded the ban on plastic bags and vowed to lend their support to make it a success.
Samuel Matonda, spokesman for the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, said it would cost 60,000 jobs and force 176 manufacturers to close.
Kenya is a major exporter of plastic bags to the region. Big Kenyan supermarket chains like France’s Carrefour and Nakumatt have already started offering customers cloth bags as alternatives.