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Letters

LETTERS: Why plastic menace poses a major threat

Polythene bags
Polythene bags float on a river in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The rate at which our environment is getting polluted by plastic is worrying. Plastics that take centuries to degrade are slowly and permanently destroying our water bodies, putting into jeopardy thousands of marine species, birds and ourselves.

If the recent study stating that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans is anything to go by, we should be very worried.

Our own existence on this planet is under a great threat. It is time we turn the tide before it’s too late. I appreciate Kenya’s ban on plastic carrier bags almost two years ago; the gains we have made to protect our environment are commendable, but more needs to be done.

There are still some challenges in implementing the ban, plus a lot of illegal plastic bags are still getting into our country through porous borders.

It is vital that the government agencies mandated to implement this law work with everybody to achieve the ban’s intended purpose. One of the biggest challenges in protecting and conserving the environment is a citizenry that does not respect the environment and sees no benefit in living in an environment devoid of litter.

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I do not blame them though; I think it is how most of us were brought up without environmental education. It could be hard to change this throw-it-away culture, but we should never give up. Public awareness campaigns should blanket the country, teaching people good environmental ethics. Most importantly, plastic manufacturers and producers of goods packaged in plastic have a direct role to play; they cannot run away from their own created problem.

As much as they benefit from products that pollute the environment, it behoves them to play a leading role in ensuring that the plastic they use does not end up in the environment.

It is something they have failed at terribly, blaming the consumer while laughing all the way to the bank. Part of the profits they make must go back as a levy for environmental protection.

It is sad that waste pickers who do most of the dirty and most cumbersome work get so little for their sweat. They deserve better. After becoming very concerned with rampant littering – especially of plastic – and that nothing much is being done to resolve this crisis, I propose that companies using plastic packaging be compelled by law to imprint such words as ‘’This packaging harms or destroys the environment and it should not be thrown away. It should be taken back to the manufacturer for recycling.’’

That message, in my opinion, should be in bold on the label that carries the brand name. This warning printed on plastic drink bottles, yogurt cups, and cake wrappers etc., will be a sure way of raising awareness and forcing companies to commit to taking back their plastics for reuse or recycling, or even coming up with better alternatives.

This kind of warning will greatly reduce littering in our country, just as the warning on cigarettes has helped reduce the number of smokers. The National Environment Management Authority should think about developing this kind of policy to safeguard our environment

James Wakibia, environmental activist, Nakuru.

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