Industrialists have now moved to court after their pleas to have the ban on plastic bags suspended were ignored.
In a petition filed before the High Court, the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) accuses Environment Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu and Nema director general Geoffrey Wahungu of ignoring requests for dialogue as well as failing to consult stakeholders as required by law before declaring plans to impose the ban.
They had asked for activation of a Green Levy Fund (GLF) for establishment of several plastic waste recycling plants but this was ignored by the Environment ministry and Nema.
In a sworn affidavit, KAM chief executive Phyllis Wakiaga said manufacturers agreed to contribute money to set up the Green Levy Fund but the CS failed to constitute a task force to actualise this plan on plastic waste management.
“The effect is that funds have accumulated by way of excise duty levied on plastic bags but have not been channelled towards developing a waste management programme as envisaged,” said the chief executive.
Instead, added Ms Wakiaga, the government created a false public impression that manufacturers were to blame for continued proliferation of used plastic bags in waterways, grazing fields, estates, urban centres and in virtually all empty spaces. The petition is slated for hearing on August 22 in Nairobi.
KAM wants Kenya to emulate other countries that have established recycling plants, using plastic waste to make much-needed products and reducing the need to cut down trees for timber and paper manufacturing.
She said ceiling boards, litter bins and garden furniture were among popular products made from plastic waste, adding that this could create a new range of jobs from waste collectors, transporters and recyclers.
She said the impending ban had adversely affected manufacturing processes, leading to loss of about 60,000 jobs in 160 plastic bags firms.
Ms Wakiaga said Kenya’s flower and horticulture exports will be affected since any new packaging material introduced would need to be certified by standards agencies in the export markets.
The petition notes that gains made in industrialising Kenya would be reversed and the private sector-government relationship watered down, further hurting the country’s bid to attract direct foreign investments in the manufacturing sector.
“Plastic is an extremely cost-effective, versatile and durable synthetic product made from oil by-products. It is used across diverse sectors, including packaging, construction, transportation, healthcare and electronics,” she said.
The CEO said any move to ban its use would hurt consumers as manufacturers would adopt expensive packaging material and pass the cost to end users.
In her suit, Ms Wakiaga notes that KAM, Nema and the Kenya Bureau of Standards formulated a joint implementation plan (JIP) on plastic waste management that was signed on June 29, 2007, where parties agreed on the GLF plan.
Kebs set the minimum thickness gauge at 30 microns, while manufacturers agreed to the GLF 10 per cent levy, giving the government a new source of revenue.
“All plastic bag manufacturers, who are KAM members, paid the GLF levies but the funds were not channelled towards developing a waste management programme, she said.
“CS Wakhungu’s and Nema’s refusal to uphold the terms of the JIP has resulted in a regulatory and policy vacuum,” she said, adding that their offer for a public-private partnership on establishment of a waste recycling plant had been ignored.
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