Water/Wastewater

How is Kenya Cracking Down on Plastic Bags?

Sep 20 2017 Comments 0

Disposable bags are the latest culprit to face the spotlight for their contribution to plastic pollution. And quite rightly too. Collectively, the world goes through around 500 billion of the single-use plastic polluters every year. That’s over a hundred per person!

Luckily, nations across the world are waking up to this harsh reality. In response to the problem, they’re introducing ways to curb plastic bag use – such as Britain’s compulsory charge of at least five pence for a plastic bag. Kenya has taken things a step further though…

Cracking down on plastic bags

Because they take hundreds of years to decompose, plastic bags have a tendency to linger around in the environment. They litter the streets, bulk up landfills and even pollute the ocean for up to a thousand years, posing a serious threat to wildlife.

The solution? Ban them. So far, over 40 countries have introduced partial or full bans – or even extra tax – on disposable plastic bags, including China, Rwanda, France, and now Kenya. 

Enough is enough

However, while most bans have a small financial penalty for non-compliance, Kenya’s new law includes a fine of up to $40,000 or as much as four years in jail.

Technically, this could be enforced on anybody found producing, selling or using disposable plastic bags. Although, according to Judy Wakhungu, the Kenyan environment minister, large manufacturers will be first to be targeted.

Anticipating the impact

Will it work? In Britain, the number of plastic bags used plummeted by over 80% in less than a year. Clearly people can cope without them, and it just takes the disincentive of a 5p charge to push them to alternatives, such as reusable bags.

With a much higher penalty in Kenya, it’s expected the response will be even better. Supermarket chains have already started offering cloth bags to customers as an alternative way to carry their shopping.

Cleaning up pollutants

Plastic bags are just one of the pollutants in lakes, rivers and reservoirs across the UK and further afield. They’re also flooded with agricultural run-off and sewage discharge, resulting in high concentrations of a range of toxic chemicals. The result is water which is either unusable or that requires expensive chemical treatments.

There is a better way, however. The article ‘The best way to clean up flooded lakes and reservoirs’ explores how aeration solutions can help maintain good quality water without the expensive chemical interventions.

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