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Kenyans scramble to ditch polythene bags on first day of ban

Joseph Ondieki (right), a trader at a market in Eldoret, sells oranges which he packages in small non-plastic material on August 28, 2017. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG
Joseph Ondieki (right), a trader at a market in Eldoret, sells oranges which he packages in small non-plastic material on August 28, 2017. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG 

It was one of the most difficult things to do; to spot a Kenyan carrying polythene materials on Monday as a State-imposed ban on polythene bags took effect.

A spot-check by Nation revealed that streets of Nairobi were swamped with hawkers who overnight had switched from polythene bags to alternative packaging of all sorts - including travel bags which they encouraged pedestrians to buy to beat the ban.

Wholesalers of packaging materials, who had been popular stockists of the polythene bags, have also switched to biodegradable alternatives.

Asami Ltd, a Nairobi-based firm that sells packaging bags, was for the better part of Monday morning inundated with customers clamouring to buy alternative packaging materials.

The shop was overflowing with customers who elbowed one other in an attempt to catch the attention of attendants behind the counter.

Ironically, the shop (Asami) was still packing items using polythene bags.

Sarah Kamunyu a business lady in Kikuyu town, however declined the polythene-wrapped goods saying she did not want to be caught on the wrong side of the law.

"I don't want to be arrested. I’d rather leave them behind than pay Sh4 million fine. Right now the police are on high alert I don't want to be arrested," she told the shop attendant.



Street vendors at Nakuru's Wakulima market sell reusable eco-friendly carrier bags. PHOTO | AYUB MUIYURO | NMG
Street vendors at Nakuru's Wakulima market sell reusable eco-friendly carrier bags. PHOTO | AYUB MUIYURO | NMG

Seeking exemption from ban

Despite seemingly high levels of compliance within the city, some Kenyans are still lamenting the high cost of the transition as reality hit home.

"Why accept plastic garbage bags but refuse the dry cleaning ones yet they're the same bags and size?" the owner of a dry cleaning outlet who did not want to be quoted wondered.

“We're suffering. We have tried to talk to NEMA about labelling our bags so that we take responsibility for any bags that are found disposed off in the wrong way but they won’t listen to us. I can’t imagine how much the now popular non-woven bag is going to cost for a large size like the one we use for dry cleaning. Luckily most customers seem to understand the situation and are bringing their own bags,” he added.

At supermarkets in the city, everything flowed smoothly with most stores selling the bags for a few shillings, except for Choppies which was packing items in old cartons or wrapping them in newspapers for customers that bought one or two items.

Customers with items like water had to walk out of the supermarket with their items in hand.

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