Kenya is set to join Rwanda in the realization of a plastic free environment. Unlike in Rwanda, the process in Kenya has just started with the recent ban of the use and manufacture of plastic bags that takes effect from 1st September this year.
The National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) is working with other institutions like the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) to ensure that the law is enforced and that manufacturers of these plastic bags are not producing more. However there is need for inclusivity in this process, where the manufacturers and these authorities, including the Ministry of Environment to ensure understanding of the guidelines and best ways of managing the transition.
While the ban takes effect in the country, a lot of people are going to be affected. Retailers and wholesalers will have to seek alternatives for packing goods. Consider the people who sell charcoal in the shopping centers around, the mama mboga and other fast food vendors who have to use plastic bags every day in carrying out their businesses. While the legislations are being made, these factors need to be considered and an all-inclusive solution crafted.
In my opinion, much can be done to recycle and reuse these bags. The ban alone will not make much sense if there will be no sustainable manner in which to get rid of the piles of garbage in the dump sites across the country. These are still a threat to the environment. Used plastic bags lie uncollected in our towns and cities and unless we find a way to dispose of them without causing further damage to the environment, the problem still remains the same.
As we think about plastic bags, we cannot ignore the other types of waste. With the digital age comes e-waste. A study done by UNEP in 2010 shows that Kenya generates up to 17350 tons of e waste per day. Apart from being non-biodegradable, these equipment contain toxic and radioactive elements which have serious effects on humans, soil and animals. The whole issue of waste management should therefore be well thought out to avoid loop holes. Whereas plastic bags are a menace, we need not limit our focus and efforts to these. Perhaps we should classify waste and find ways to dispose and recycle or reuse waste. Many of the rivers in our cities for example Mathare, Ngong and Nairobi rivers are running waste and sewer lines. Air pollution is also another issue we cannot ignore.
Non-governmental bodies including UNEP and http://kataataka.org/ among others should also be involved in the transition process. These organizations, and other environmental initiatives have plans and ideas for sustainable waste management that could be incorporated in the implementation of the ban.
There is need therefore for a multi-sectorial involvement in the process. No one should be left out in this important process. This will help in changing the narrative for the young generation and inculcating new behavior in as far as waste disposal is concerned. Every citizen must be informed on the need for the ban, and the implications they have on the environment and lives in general. Imagine how Kenya would be in the next few years if there’ll be no more litter, no more dump sites? Imagine a clean, green Kenya, the change begins today.