The news came as a big advancement to environment enthusiasts and advocates as Kenya announced a ban on the use, making or importing of plastics which can harm the environment.
Those who are found violating or contravening the new law will find themselves in very precarious positions. They could either be sent to jail for four years or they can pay a fine of up to at least $40 000 in a move that has been regarded as very strict. The preservation of the environment has obviously taken precedence in coming up with such a decision, and the new law has become one of the toughest in the world as regards environment matters.
The minimum fine or sentence one can undergo is that of paying at least $19 000 or serve a year in prison. The law applies to the use, manufacture and importation of plastics. Those using plastics for key industrial purposes were exonerated from this landmark ruling on the conservation of the environment. The ban was initially passed in February, but was made effective on 28 August so as to give consumers the time to adapt and make the necessary changes. It also gave importers time to challenge the ruing, though it was eventually rejected by the High Court.
Many countries have banned the use of plastics either wholly or partially and these include China, France, Rwanda and Italy. With this new ruling, Kenya has also joined the bandwagon of such countries which have effected bans on the use, manufacture and importation of plastics. Cameroon, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Mauritania and Malawi are among African countries that have adopted or announced such bans.
Plastics have been proven to have adverse effects on the environment. Many plastic bags drift into the oceans thereby strangling turtles, suffocating seabirds and filling the stomachs of dolphins and whales with waste until they die of starvation. Islands of plastic waste are detrimental to fish and other aquatic life. Throughout the country, roads are filled with discarded plastics and drainage systems are also affected by the plastics as they are blocked.
If we continue like this, by 2050, we will have more plastic in the ocean than fish,” said Habib El-Habr, an expert on marine litter working with the UN environment programme in Kenya. “This is something we didn’t get 10 years ago but now it’s almost 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 carcasses.
The issue has raised some serious matters of contention between the importers and the government. The importers have argued that the ban will render others jobless and that also profits may be sharply reduced, echoes also resonated by the manufactures. However the Government has responded by saying that as a matter of fact more employment will be created because of the manufacturing of environment-friendly plastic bags. Enforcement would initially be directed at importers and manufacturers, although the Kenyan law allows the police to go after anyone seen carrying a plastic.
Not everyone is satisfied with the new law, even though it took Kenya ten years to implementing it after three attempts. However, this is seen as one of the important measures employed to save the environment from the harmful effects of plastics.