WHY BAN ON THE USE, MANUFACTURE AND IMPORTATION OF ALL PLASTIC CARRIER BAGS

 

In the Gazette notice No. 2356, of 28th February, 2017, The Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources while exercising powers conferred under section 3 and 86 of the Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act (EMCA Cap 387), notified the public that with effect from six months from the date of the notice, banned the use, manufacture and importation of all plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging.

In Kenya plastics are widely used as a key packing material in several sectors of the economy namely manufacturing, trade, transport, agriculture, hospitality etc. A research done by the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) in conjunction with United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Kenya Institute of Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA), revealed that 100 million plastic bags are handed out annually in Kenya by supermarkets alone.

 

The purpose of the Government to ban the use of plastic bags is to avoid health and environmental effects resulting from the use of plastic bags.  These effects include,

 

  1. The inability of plastic bags to decompose and thus affecting soil quality; 
  2. the littering of such bags at various parts of the country; 
  3. The blockage of sewerage and water drainage infrastructure causing floods during the raining season; 
  4. Damage of ecosystems and biodiversity, 
  5. Pollution of Coastal and Marine environment including smothering of Corals and choking of Sea turtles and other marine animals. 
  6. Death of terrestrial animals after consuming plastic material; 
  7. Endangering human health when used for packaging food in particular hot food; 
  8. Poisonous gaseous and when used as fuel to light charcoal; and 
  9. Air pollution when disposed by burning in open air. 

The government extends a six month grace period to manufacturers and importers of all plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging.  All stakeholders are required to take reasonable steps to ensure that by 28th August, 2017, the production, importation, sale and use of plastic bags in the country ceases. Manufacturers of all plastic bags are encouraged to invest in the production of alternative bags.

 

Pursuant to section 144 of EMCA, any person who contravenes the provision of the gazette notice shall be liable to a fine of not less than two (2) million Kenya Shillings, and not more than four (4) million Kenya shillings, or imprisonment of a term of not less than one (1) year but not more than two (2) years or to both such fine and imprisonment.

 

UNBUNDLING THE GAZETTE NOTICE: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ)

 

Question1: What is a carrier bag?

Answer: A carrier bag is a plastic bag constructed with handles or without and may have a gusset or not

 

Question2: What is a flat bag?

Answer: A flat bag is a plastic bag constructed with handles or without.

 

Question 3: What are the major concerns of Plastics bags?

Answer: Plastic carrier bags are bags manufactured for single use that generally tear or puncture after a first use. They are easily transported by the wind and are some of the most visible components of roadside and shoreline litter. Plastic bags are produced from oil and natural gas, and never fully biodegrade, remaining in the environment as small or even microscopic particles, essentially forever. 

 

Question 4: Which plastics have been banned?

Answer: The ban applies to all plastic carrier bags:

with handles and with or without gussets, 

flat bags, which are all, used as secondary packaging material. 

 

Question 5: Which plastics have been exempted? 

Answer: The exemptions include:

Material used for industrial primary packaging whereby the product is in direct contact with the plastic material; 

Self-cringing plastic material used for primary wrapping of some products and this DOES NOT include the flimsy plastic bags. To emphasize the flimsy plastic bags are NOT in this category. 

 

Question 6: When were manufacturers and importers required to stop providing plastic single-use carrier bags to customers?

Answer: By August 28th, 2017. Furthermore all manufacturers and importers shall declare all their remaining stocks by the due date to the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) for further necessary action.

 

Question 7: Will there be a “grace period” for retailers to comply?

Answer: The Gazette Notice was published on 28thFebruary, 2017, allowing six (6) months grace period for necessary adjustments and compliance.

 

Question 8: Are retailers allowed to use up existing stocks of plastic bags after August 28th 2017 ? 

Answer: No, retailers should clear stocks within the grace period.  All manufacturers should ensure there are no remaining stocks by the due date otherwise it will be a loss on their side since no use after the due date will be allowed. 

Furthermore all retailers shall declare all their remaining stocks by the due date to the Authority for further necessary action.

 

Question 9: Can retailers provide paper bags as an alternative to plastic carrier bags?

Answer: yes

 

Question 10: What are the alternatives to plastic carrier bags?

Answer: paper bags; clothing bags; sisal bags; papyrus bags and buyers/shoppers own shopping bags

 

Question 11: Which retailers are affected?

Answer: All Retailers

 

Question 12: Are small retail businesses exempt?

Answer: No.

 

Question 13: Do the requirements prohibit retailers from selling plastic bags such as garbage bags?

Answer: Yes.

 

Question 14: Is there an exemption for clothing stores?

Answer: No.  Exemptions apply to only primary industrial packaging (i.e. direct packaging from factory) as indicated in 5 above.

 

Question 15: What is the plan for informing retailers?

Answer: Gazette Notice, Newspapers, Radio, Barazas, NEMA website: www.nema.go.ke MENR website: http://www.environment.go.ke, social media.

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