April 25th 2017

Society / Environment

Kenya's plastic manufacturers in fierce battle against proposed EAC ban

Kenya Association of Manufacturers echoed the MP’s sentiments adding that compared to the alternatives suggested, polythene is cheaper to produce, provides food safety and maintains food hygiene unlike paper which is not reusable and in case of contact with fluids and foodstuffs, can easily get spoi

By Carolyne Jendeka and Jonathan OdongoMonday, 06 Feb 2017 14:18 EAT

Opposition has emerged to the proposal law to regulate the use of plastics in the East African Community (EAC) countries. During the consultative meeting convened by the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) on Wednesday at Nairobi Safari Club to discuss EAC Polythene Materials Control Bill, 2016, an MP in the Kenya National Assembly, Hon. Njogu Barua, raised concern that the Bill has social and economic implications.

The MP stated that Kenya has a thriving industry in the [polythene] sector and is a leading manufacturer and distributor in Eastern Africa and ranks 4th in Africa. “There are 176 companies that have invested in the sector which supports 60,000 families directly through employment, about 600,000 indirectly and is great contributor to the GDP of the country,” he said.

Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) echoed Hon. Njogu’s sentiments adding that compared to the alternatives suggested, polythene is cheaper to produce, provides food safety and maintains food hygiene unlike paper which is not reusable and in case of contact with fluids and foodstuffs, can easily get spoilt.

KAM also claimed that polythene has limited impact on climate and the environment. According to the manufacturers’ association, polythene has low carbon emission and minimal impact on the ozone layer and uses only 10 percent of water during production compared to the alternatives.

They emphasized that polythene is reusable, easy to reduce and some recyclable unlike paper bags that are used only once and instead of polythene ban, comprehensive and holistic waste management strategy should be adopted since the issue “seems to be a human problem of waste disposal” than the polythene materials themselves.

“We as key players in this industry recognize the need to push for sustainable development goals and do support the spirit of this bill. However, the issue here seems to be a human problem of waste disposal and we suggest that the bill should include waste management in its provisions in order to make governments accountable to the agenda,” KAM presented.

“It is our opinion that comprehensive solid waste management should be adopted through a private-public sector coordination arrangement and also look towards creating a culture of environmental waste management through teaching in schools and imposition of fines for littering,” the association’s representative added.

KAM also argued that polythene materials are less harmful compared to motor vehicle fumes, chemical waste and nuclear waste. “The difference is that polythene is more visible. The issue of waste and environmental pollution should therefore be looked at holistically in terms of the most harmful waste,” they stated.

Last year, the Bill that aims to provide a legal framework for preservation of a clean and healthy environment through prohibition of the manufacturing, sale, importation and use of polythene materials within East Africa, had to be put on hold until this year for further consultations after it was opposed by KAM on the basis that its enactment would threaten the local manufacturing industries and lead to loss of jobs and investments.

Despite Kenya’s reluctance, countries globally have made major steps towards controlling polythene waste. “Countries like China have banned the issuance of free plastic bags; some states in USA like California have banned business owners from handing out free paper bags; Taiwan, Ireland, France have banned or increased taxes on the materials in order to encourage shoppers to reuse or carry alternatives and Bangladesh had banned plastic bags after they realized they block the drainage systems.

"In the East Africa, only Rwanda has banned the use of polythene bags,” Hon. Patricia Hajabakiga said during the consultative meeting.

Ms Jendeka is a sociologist with interest in community development and social activism while Mr Odongo is the founder and executive director of the Kenya Environmental Education Network





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