October 3, 2023


The penalty of being found in possession of plastic bags in Kenya attracts a fine of between Sh2 million and Sh4 million or a jail term of one to two years, or both.

More by Winnie Kabintie

Kenya’s plastic bags ban is actually commendable

Kenya’s plastic bags ban is actually commendable

Reusbale packing bags in Kenya

You don’t get to appreciate Kenya’s long-standing ban on single-use plastic bags until you travel out of the country; especially to a country that has no such ban in place.

I happened to be in Singapore last month with some compatriots and it was interesting to see all three of us react to the sight of plastic bags while shopping.

Wow! I can’t recall the last time I saw these bags! this has taken me back to memory lane”, Carol remarked as an attendant packed her shopping in a big clear plastic bag.

“I know! right!”, I responded.  “I always find it odd when I see these bags. We’ve come along way.

The cashier overheard the conversation and got curious! “where are you from? you mean no plastic bags in your country”, she uttered.

She was so impressed with Kenya’s ban on plastic ban and went ahead to explain that for Singapore; even though plastic bags are not outlawed; the government introduced a requirement for supermarkets to start charging shoppers at least five cents for each bag in an effort to control plastic pollution.

As you return home; as soon as the flight starts it descent to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) there is also an inflight announcement to passengers reminding them that plastic bags are banned in Kenya and an offender would be liable for a fine or jail term.

The penalty of being found in possession of plastic bags in Kenya attracts a fine of between Sh2 million and Sh4 million or a jail term of one to two years, or both.

Back at home even though there are still some plastic bags that are smuggled into our markets especially the small clear ones that folks just need for survival as they have never been alternatives; like for packaging things like sukumawiki; I think we can all agree that the plastic bags menace is not as bad as it used to be before the ban.

I remember how our streets and roadside plants would be littered with those ugly black and red paper bags or the other popular blue stripped clear ones.

Kenya’s plastic ban, lauded as one of the toughest in the world took effect in August 2017, making Manufacturing, selling, or using plastic bags to carry your shopping, or packing goods, illegal in the country.

Ending Plastic Bags Smuggling in Kenya and Rwanda – Regional Ban Key

At a regional level; environmentalists have emphasized the need for a regional ban as key to controlling plastic pollution.

Despite the strict plastic bans legislation adopted by Kenya and Rwanda, the only countries in East Africa which have outlawed the importation and use of single-use plastic bags in the respective countries, plastic bags continue to infiltrate the respective markets mostly by being smuggled from neighbouring countries, where plastics are not outlawed.

In Kenya, plastic bags, which are mostly used by hawkers and in the markets, are smuggled from Uganda while in Rwanda it’s from the neighbouring Congo. Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi are also hotspots for smuggling illicit bags.


If you’re interested in this issue, consider reading this analysis of how a regional ban is needed if Kenya is to tackle plastic bag littering issues. 




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