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Supermarkets charge for packaging after plastic bag ban

Retail chain operators are now being asked to promote purchase and use of reusable bags and to sensitise shoppers on the alternatives. PHOTO | FILE | AFP
Large supermarket chains and retailers countrywide have begun charging for shopping bags to comply with the plastic bag ban that came into effect today. PHOTO | FILE | AFP 

Large supermarket chains and retailers countrywide have begun charging for shopping bags to comply with the plastic bag ban that came into effect today.

A Kenya Gazette notice published in March banned the use, manufacture and import of plastic bags for commercial and household packaging from August 28.

The National Environment Management Authority (Nema) has warned that those violating the ban face a fine of between Sh2 million and Sh4 million, or a jail term of between one and two years, or both.

A spot check by Business Daily showed chains such as Tuskys, Nakumatt, Uchumi and Quickmart are no longer packaging goods on free plastic bags.

They are instead providing non-plastic bag carriers for packaging to shoppers at a fee while encouraging their customers to carry their own shopping bags.

Several shoppers appear to be heeding the message.

Some of the alternative products customers are opting for include traditional baskets (kiondos) woven bags, papyrus and palm baskets that retailed at below Sh80.

Sh10 a bag

“We shall provide customers with eco-reusable bags. (The) price (will be) Sh5 for small bags and Sh10 for large bags,” said Tuskys in a text message to shoppers.

The retailer encouraged shoppers to, however, carry their own alternative packaging material.

“We also encourage you to carry kiondos, baskets and any other eco-reusable bags. In addition, we shall provide packing cartons on request.

"Feel free to return with the eco-reusable bags during your next shopping,” said Tuskys.

Uchumi Chief Executive Julius Kipngetich said the retailer was complying with the ban and had not encountered hiccups in packaging goods for shoppers.

“It’s going on well; we are providing ecofriendly materials at a fee,” said Mr Kipng'etich.

Three months ago

In a statement Nakumatt said: “We started complying three months ahead of the ban. There is good uptake this far and we fully support the ban.”

A supermarket official who sought anonymity said the ban is likely to help retailers eliminate massive overheads in the form of plastic paper bags earlier offered for free.

“The costs of paper bags constitute two per cent of a retailer’s cost base, when you look at a retailer like Nakumatt whose revenues run into over Sh60 billion annually, this is huge savings in cost to the retailers.”

Retail Trade Association of Kenya (Retrak) chief executive officer Wambui Mbarire said Retrak continues to support the ban whilst acknowledging that there shall be challenges of implementation.

“Nema must continue with public awareness and ensure no harassment by the implementors,” said Ms Mbarire.

“Members shall continue to work at providing cheap solutions at the till, but encourage the public to bring their own bags as we work to entrench a culture of reuse and recycle.”

Ms Mbarire, however, urged Nema to work with industry to urgently come up with an alternative for the flat bag which she said is synonymous with the “kadogo” economy.

Paper envelopes

Innovative Miraa sellers in Kirinyaga packaged their khat in paper envelopes.

Environmentalists have praised the ban, saying it will help minimise pollution.

Manufacturers lost a legal bid last week to oppose the ban’s implementation.

While backing the ban, Environment secretary Prof Judi Wakhungu has argued that besides protecting the environment, the ban will “spur growth of homegrown industries” dealing in alternative packaging material including traditional baskets (kiondos) made from sisal.

Nema had earlier said its inspectors would inspect whether manufacturers were complying with the plastic bag ban.

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