East Africa: Uganda, Other EA Countries Supplying Banned Plastic Bags to Kenya

Kenya banned the use of plastic bags on August 28, 2017.

On June 22, 2018, the Environment and Lands Court ruled in favour of the plastic bag ban.

Judges Samson Okong'o, Antonina Bor and Benard Eboso declined to quash the gazette notice which prompted the ban on plastic bags in August last year.

The three-judge-bench stated that the government did not violate any rights in imposing the ban.

In the case by the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), importers, exporters, wholesalers and retailers together with activists Okiya Omtatah challenging the ban on the use, manufacture as well as importation of certain types of plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging, the judges said there was no evidence to prove increased cost of packaging or a health risk as a result of the ban.

The government issued the gazette notice effecting the ban on February 28, 2017, in which the judges further noted that the benefits of the ban outweighed the harm caused by the ban.

"The limitation of rights imposed by the impugned gazette notice was reasonable and justifiable and as such accords with the Constitution," the judges said.

They further added that although some ordinary Kenyans could suffer social and economic losses as a result of the ban, the plastic ban was for the common good of the general public and as such lawful.

But, the system seems to be leaking with the use of plastic bags continuing in full breach of the ban.

News that 80 per cent of single-use plastic carrier bags is still in circulation in most parts of the country despite being outlawed a year ago shows that there is a failure by enforcers.

The bags are heavy pollutants causing blockage in drainage systems and causing deaths to livestock that feed on them.

Greenpeace Africa's Campaigner Amos Wemanya says: "The government of Kenya through the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) needs to improve its policing activities both within and across borders to nab the illegal suppliers of banned single-use plastic carrier bags."

He adds that most of the plastic bags are imported into the country from Uganda and other neighbouring countries through porous border points.

"The papers are supplied to various markets by organised cartels. The East African legislative members need to push for regional implementation of the single-use plastic carrier bags ban to achieve the benefits of the ban in Kenya and across East Africa."

Wemanya added that there is also the need for improved public awareness activities to sensitise consumers and the general public of the negative impacts of plastic pollution on health, marine life and our environment in general including water bodies.

"Greenpeace Africa calls on the government of Kenya to provide subsidies and tax rebates to manufacturers of alternatives to plastics. This will make alternatives more affordable, stimulate more production thus influencing the accessibility for small-scale retailers and consumers."

Nema said in January that there is still a challenge eradicating plastic bags mainly in the border towns.

Most East African countries in the region are still manufacturing plastic bags which are easily accessible to Kenyans across the porous borders.

Nema's Chief Enforcement Officer Robert Orina said that some business operators are still getting the commodity in bulk from the neighbouring countries, mainly Uganda, despite the ban.

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