Kenya Enforces World's Toughest Law Against Plastic Bags

Peter Burugu who is the proprietor of World Plastics Company watches as his workers cover plastic making machines ahead of the Monday dead line of production of the plastic bags

There are two categories of plastic bags that have been banned under the Environment Manufacturers and Co-ordination Act.

Those bags are coming from 30 plastic manufacturers who sell the products for a total of $406 million per year.

Many bags drift into the ocean, strangling turtles, suffocating seabirds and filling the stomachs of dolphins and whales with waste until they die of starvation.

The United Nations Environment Program gave some other facts and figures into why the country is taking such a strong stand against plastic bags.

Kenya's law allows police to go after anyone even carrying a plastic bag.

Greenpeace Africa said in a statement issued in Nairobi that Kenya has set a precedent in environmental conservation by imposing a ban on manufacture and use of plastic carrier bags.

Plastic bags have always been identified as a major cause of environmental damage and health problems, killing birds, fish and other animals that mistake them for food, said the United Nations environment agency.

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In Nairobi slaughterhouses, some beef cows can accidentally consume up to 20 bags.

"This is something we didn't get ten years ago but now its nearly on a daily basis", said county vet Mbuthi Kinyanjui as he watched men in bloodied white uniforms scoop sodden plastic bags from the stomachs of cow carcases.

"Ordinary wananchi [the common man] will not be harmed", she told Reuters.

Research in Europe has shown that a paper bag must be used three times to compensate for the larger amount of carbon used in manufacturing and transporting it.

Samuel Matonda, a spokesman for the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, said the new regulation could cost up to 60,000 jobs.

"Plastic bags are highly toxic and damage the ecosystem, they also take hundreds of years to degrade". "The knock-on effects will be very severe", Mr. Matonda told The Standard newspaper.

Men and women scavenge for recyclable materials amidst mountains of garbage and plastic bags at the dump in the Dandora slum of Nairobi, Kenya. But most supermarkets chains had stopped giving out the bags and were selling cloth bags instead.

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