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Ban on use of plastic bags to collect and dispose garbage welcome, but – Greenpeace Africa says

UN says plastic pollution is one of the most serious threats to the planet’s health. INFOGRAPHIC/ PHOTO/UGC.


Greenpeace Africa’s Plastics Campaigner Gerance Mutwol has lauded the Government of Kenya for banning the use of plastic bags to collect and dispose of garbage but called for more action.

Mr Mutwol said Kenya should prioritise reusable models and ensure that any biodegradable alternatives are safe and genuinely contribute to a circular economy and continue to be a continental leader in combating the plastic crisis.

“While we applaud the Government of Kenya for its decisive actions, beginning with the 2017 ban on plastic carrier bags and now with the mandatory use of biodegradable garbage bags alternatives for organic waste collection, we call for greater ambition in moving towards a zero-waste and plastic-free future,” Mr Mutwol said.

Kenya’s National Environment Management Authority (Nema) in a notice dated April 8, has announced a ban on the use of plastic bags to collect and dispose of garbage and given Kenyans 90 days to stop using plastic bags from the date of the notice.

“For the foregoing therefore and to ensure environmentally sound management of the organic waste fraction, the Authority directs that within 90 days from the date of this notice:

Nema said in the notice that the use of conventional plastic bags/bin liners for collection of organic waste shall thus cease forthwith. The Authority has directed all garbage to be carried in biodegradable garbage bags.

It has also directed all county governments and private waste service providers licensed by Nema to provide their clients with 100% biodegradable bags.

“All organic waste generated by households, private sector and public sector institutions, private and public functions and events; shall strictly be segregated and placed in 100% biodegradable garbage bags/bin liners only,” Nema said.

Outlawing single-use plastics in pristine landscapes that are home to iconic plant and animal species is part of Kenya’s green agenda. PHOTO/Tanya Leakey.

The directive is in line with Section 12 of the Sustainable Waste Management Act, 2022.

The section requires that; (1) All public and private sector entities segregate non-hazardous waste into organic and non-organic fractions, (2) The segregated waste be placed in properly labelled and colour coded receptacles, bins, containers and bags. (3) All waste service providers to collect, handle and transport segregated waste.

Mr Mutwol insisted that biodegradable alternatives were a temporary step and advocated a stronger emphasis on investing in reusable collection systems. He also sought clarity on the composition of the replacement garbage bags so ordered.

“It is crucial that we scrutinise these ‘biodegradable’ materials. The term ‘biodegradable’ often encompasses a broad range of materials with varying environmental impacts,” he said.

The Greenpeace Africa’s Plastics Campaigner urged the government to provide detailed information regarding the composition and biodegradability of the bags it wants Kenya to use to ensure they genuinely minimise environmental impact.

NEMA’s announcement comes as world leaders meet in Ottawa, Canada, from 23 to 29 April 2024 for the fourth round of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC4) to draft a binding plastics treaty.

Greenpeace Africa has called for a treaty that prioritises reducing plastics production and embraces solutions like refill and reuse systems to minimise the use and production of single-use plastics.

Kenya banned single-use plastic bags in 2017 – a move that was lauded as groundbreaking. In 2020, single-use plastics were prohibited in protected areas such as parks and forests.

Despite the success of the bag ban, it has not been enough to eliminate the country’s struggles with pollution, as it did not include many other forms of plastic, including bottles, rubbish bags and takeaway containers.

The magnitude of the plastic crisis is dire, and only an ambitious treaty can turn the tide. INFOGRAPHIC/GREENPEACE AFRICA.

On the roads to Dandora waste dumping site in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city, plastic litter lines the streets, threatening to block drains during heavy rains.

The air around the site is filled with the smell of rancid waste. Garbage collection services in the neighbourhood are informal and woefully inadequate, resulting in residents to often litter or dump household waste by the roadside.

Plastic pollution is one of the most serious threats to the planet’s health. Single-use plastics are polluting the majority of ecosystems from rainforests to the world’s deepest ocean trench. When consumed by fish and livestock, plastic waste ends up in our food chain.

By 2050, the UN estimates that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean, unless governments and the private sector promote more resource-efficient design, production, use and sound management of plastics throughout their life cycle.

Kenya is taking a bold step in this direction. On 5 June 2020, Kenya banned the use of plastics in National Parks, beaches, forests and conservation areas, which means visitors will no longer be able to carry plastic water bottles, cups, disposable plates, cutlery, or straws into protected areas. The move followed Kenya’s ground-breaking step of a nationwide ban on single-use plastic bags in 2017.

Outlawing single-use plastics in pristine landscapes that are home to iconic plant and animal species is part of Kenya’s green agenda.

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