That Kenya has quite progressive social, political and economic legislation is without a doubt! the only challenge has always been on the enforcement of these laws.
Take for instance Kenya’s historic ban on plastic bags, which was lauded as one of the toughest bans in the world, a law that had initially been effectively enforced but only for so long!
Big Fine and Long Jail Sentence
When Kenya banned the manufacturing and use of plastic bags in the country in 2017, becoming one of the first countries to enforce the ban, the population for once obeyed the law to the latter. Perhaps it was because of how serious the government was about enforcing that law, and the hefty fines of up to nearly 4 million Shillings ($38,000), or a prison sentence of up to four years!
Vendors quickly, including mama mbogas moved to alternative packaging options and it became common to see consumers carrying small plastic containers and buckets to contain their sukumawiki.
In the markets and supermarkets, plastic bags became a thing of the past as woven bags took over.
Three years later, the gains made with the plastic bags ban have been reversed and plastic bags are now being openly used and even sold in the country.
In 2019, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced a ban on the use of single-use plastics in protected areas in the country, which include; national parks, forests and beaches. The ban on plastics, which was announced on World Environment Day, became effective on 5th June 2020.
Plastic pollution continues to be a major threat to our environment with current estimates by the United Nations Environment showing about eight million metric tons of plastic are thrown into the ocean each year and warn that plastic waste dumped into the ocean could increase tenfold by 2020 outnumbering fish in the ocean by 2050.
Our oceans provide the largest natural carbon sink for greenhouse gases. When plastics end up in our oceans, they choke a host of marine animals and habitats and can take hundreds of years to break down. As the plastics break down, sunlight and heat cause the plastic to release powerful greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change.
As Kenya shifts efforts to harness the economic potential of the Blue Economy, controlling plastic pollution waste management has to be prioritized if the country is to reap any gains and this begins with proper enforcement of existing laws!
President Kenyatta Announces Ban on Single Use Plastics in Parks