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Kenya’s Ban On Plastic Bags: Environmental Relief or a Driver of Unemployment?

Environmental sanity right now is a matter of global concern, particularly at a critical point when the globe is grappling with the vagaries of climate change. Kenya is no exception to global discourses around sustainable environmental conservation and the green economy, and the Kenyan government, through the Ministry of Environment earlier this year imposed a ban on the production, importation, distribution and usage of the non-biodegradable plastic bags which are used in most industrial sectors for packaging of finished commodities and carrying consumables from retail outlets.

The ban progressively takes effect in September this year, when consumers and manufacturers will be faced with the somewhat harsh reality of absence of plastic bags from the market, yet an alternative has not been offered.

This is not the first time that Kenya has made an attempt at banning the usage of plastic bags, as similar attempts were made in 2007 and later in 2011, both unsuccessfully, unlike Rwanda, the only country in the region, which has managed to do away with the environmental pollutants-The reasons being, that a biodegradable alternative hadn’t been offered.

The latest move to ban plastic bag usage has not been welcomed by the private sector which comprises manufacturers and industrialists whose lines of production and nature of business demand an intensive usage of the bags. Some manufacturers actually produce plastic bags as their primary commercial concern, further compounding the effects of the ban, which would mean that such employers lay off staff, in cases of non-diversification of industrial production, which would be expected to be an avenue for such redundant labour to be reabsorbed into the economy.

Max Lee

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