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Ban on polythene bags opens doors for new entrepreneurs

Kerio Women Bags, an alternative for plastic bags which are now banned in the country. PHOTO | BARNABAS BII | NMG
Kerio Women Bags, an alternative for plastic bags which are now banned in the country. PHOTO | BARNABAS BII | NMG 

The ban on plastic bags has bred a new crop of entrepreneurs around the country. Shoppers are slowly adjusting to life without the plastic bags with traders swapping plastics for cartons, paper bags and envelopes.

After the ban, the Kenya Bureau of Standards Quality Assurance and Inspection Director Eric Chesire named biodegradable materials that include canvas, polypropylene and cloth as alternatives and said they are now available in the market.

The move has turned out to be a blessing in disguise to some, such as a group of women in Turkana County who have invested in eco-friendly shopping kits.

Members of the group calling themselves Kerio Women group are now using palm tree leaves to weave eco-friendly baskets whose demand is rising by the day.

“We are receiving a lot of orders from cereal and fruit vendors who are switching from plastic to biodegradable bags,” said Mrs Mary Erakai, the leader of the group from Turkana Central sub-county.

“For a long time, we earned low profits from the palm tree bags due to low demand because most clients preferred plastic bags which were cheap,” said Mrs Erakai.

She pooled resources with her husband Eloto Ekwee after receiving support from Hunger Safety Net Programme to invest in shopping baskets, mats and brooms made from the palm tree leaves.

They target markets in Lodwar, Kitale and Eldoret for the recyclable shopping bags which go for between Sh100 and Sh300 a piece.

“We generate a net profit of Sh20,000 monthly from the business which has enabled us to take our children to school and afford a decent meal,” said Mrs Erakai noting that the business has created employment to five women weavers.

Despite an increase in the cost of commodities as traders pass on the extra charge, those producing eco-friendly packs are not complaining.

“We have no alternative but to transfer the cost of the bags to consumers, which has resulted in an increase in price of some commodities,” said Wilson Maina, a trader at Eldoret retail market.

A spot check by the Sunday Nation in Eldoret showed that most recyclable bags cost an average of Sh20 to Sh50.

Some plastic bags dealers say they were left with stocks worth thousands of shillings when the ban took effect.

About 12 other African countries have instituted taxes, full, or partial bans on plastic bags, including Rwanda, Mauritania, and South Africa.

The East African community has been considering a regional ban. More than 40 countries around the world have similar policies in place.

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