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In plastic bags ban, Kenyans lose a faithful servant

Juala is a necessary evil in many households, and Kenyans will learn how to live without an item that has made life easier for them for years

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After shopping, most people reuse the plastic bags to store household stuff and many other activities that make life easier.

Time has come for it to die, because of its stubbornness to the environment. Though perceived to be hazardous, it has become the darling of many hence it might not vanish easily. Statistics show that supermarkets and retail outlets produce at least 100 million plastic bags annually. It has become part and parcel of lives of all Kenyans over the years and no one can imagine a life without it.

The polythene carrier bags are set to exit the stage by next month to reduce environmental pollution following a ban by Environment and Natural Resources Cabinet Secretary Judy Wakhungu in February this year. However, how  effective the order will be is still uncertain since a similar directive by the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) to ban the manufacture and importation of the plastic bags in 2011 fell on deaf ears.

Commonly known as paper bags, the polythene bags are found almost everywhere, be it in cars, offices, at home, in the market, in people’s pockets or even dumpsites. This shows how much it is treasured across all divides of life, from the poor to the rich.

What would life look like without a plastic bag to carry sukuma wiki from that mama mboga? It is one of the many uses plastic bags are known for as Kenyans brace for their exit in a week’s time. Most people who use them for shopping will have to look for alternative ways to carry their goods from the market place and shops.

They will be required to buy reusable bags, a move that will save supermarkets the expenses they have been incurring in providing polythene papers free of charge for shoppers.

The century old product has also been used as a storage bag for most people. After doing shopping, most people reuse the plastic bags to store household stuff. This might still continue, provided they are not used publicly since government officers might not be forced to comb your house for plastic bags, hence you remain safe.

Related: NEMA lifts ban on select paper bags

Plastic bags, being trash in most cases have also been used to collect all kind of trash bearing in mind they are less reactive to chemicals and corrosion, hence can contain any kind of reactive substances. With the eradication of the bags, reusable plastic containers will take their place. They will, however, be missed for their simplicity and mobility to dumpsites.

Also, they have been used as carrier bags. The small scale retailers rarely offer these bags for free; hence you have to buy a new one every time you go shopping in the grassroots.

Children will also not be left out. Who has grown in the rural areas and never made a ball out of plastic bags? In fact, the future generation might be amazed to hear that plastic bags were once used to make balls.

READ: Car owners to be charged for using highways

Lastly is employment. There are over 176 plastic manufacturing companies in the country, which is 3.4% of all the manufacturers combined with an estimated cost value of the sector at Ksh 88 billion. However, they might not become purely extinct, the reduced market will see many lose their daily source of income, both directly and indirectly.

Nema’s decision to exempt certain types of polythene bags under strict guidelines, however, means a continued existence for some.

Editor and writer at BUSINESS TODAY, Muli has a passion for human interest stories that have a big impact on economic development. He holds a BSc in Communication and Journalism from Moi University and has worked for various organisations including Kenya Television Service. Email: [email protected] or [email protected]

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