The ban on non-woven bags take effect from today. The government will start arresting the importers, producers and consumers of the popular polypropylene bags sold in supermarkets and other retail stores.
National Environment Management Authority (Nema) says it will launch a crackdown against the "very thin, poor quality non-reusable bags".
Nema boss, Prof Geoffrey Wahungu, has warned Kenyans against defying the directive or risk being arrested, prosecuted and jailed.
"The penalties are equal to those of banned plastic bags. We are not going to tell them our strategies; that today we will raid Mombasa, Nairobi or Nakuru. To be clear, from today, non-woven bags are contraband and people will be arrested," Prof Wahungu warned.
He said the government will not give those affected amnesty, urging Kenyans to co-operate in conserving the environment.
"We are just implementing a ban that came into effect in 2017; this is not a new order. Those selling and manufacturing the materials should cease or the law shall take its course," Prof Wahungu said.
Nema said it had not allowed the use of non-woven carrier bags.
"If you want to test if you will be arrested, please don't do that. You all know that we banned plastic bags in Kenya but you ended up producing and importing the same bags that have plastic all over them. What do you expect?" the Nema boss posed.
Prof Wahungu said importers and producers of the bags should take the blame for failing to seek advice from the authority.
"You should even have consulted the Kenya Bureau of Standards. You refused to heed our calls, then later you start crying foul, asking where Nema was when you started producing the non-woven carrier bags. We did not allow usage of such bags in Kenya," Prof Wahungu offered.
The authority said it issued clearances of materials that are permitted in the country and non-woven bags was not among them.
Prof Wahungu noted that Nema issued ample time and grace period to manufacturers and importers of the materials to clear their stock before it started implementing the ban. Nema urged Kenyans to use environmentally-friendly bags.
"We did not wake up from slumber to issue the ban. We talked to the players and gave them a one-month notice but they asked for an extension. We gave them three months to comply. Is this move justifiable or not?" Prof Wahungu posed. He blamed manufacturers for the predicament, saying they began producing poor quality, thin bags.
"At the time we were getting very good gauge and strong bags so we reasoned because it was reusable or had the capacity for reuse, we allowed it to stay. But we have realised this has been abused. The gauge has become so thin. It is unsustainable, it is now a single use, it is plastic, it is non-woven and so it's a problem," he said.
On December 13 last year, Nema met the players and agreed to give them the three-month extension.