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Economy

Banned plastics find their way back via Uganda

Nema said it will intensify surveillance following news of increased activities by illegal plastic bag manufacturers and importers. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Nema said it will intensify surveillance following news of increased activities by illegal plastic bag manufacturers and importers. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Banned plastic bags are finding their way back to Kenya from neighbouring Uganda, the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) has warned.

Nema’s chief enforcement officer, Robert Orina, said the bags come through Uganda and are sold to traders at nearly double the price.

This comes amid revelations that the manufacture of plastic bags by unregulated firms in Kenya is still continuing, nearly five months after the ban.

The underground manufacturers are mainly based in Nairobi’s Industrial Area, Mlolongo and Thika.

“We have information that some business operators are still getting the commodity in bulk from neighbouring countries, mainly Uganda, despite the ban that took effect in August 2017,” said Mr Orina.

“The small bags are in circulation… and are usually on display during odd hours.”

He added that the main target of the illegal business are small scale traders who sell goods like vegetables and snacks in small portions.

In Nairobi, the underground traders are selling a pack of bags at Sh200, up from Sh120 before the ban took effect.

The ban on plastic bags came into force on August 28, which means that anyone found selling, manufacturing or carrying them could face fines of up to Sh4 million or a prison sentence of up to four years.

Nema said it will intensify surveillance following news of increased activities by illegal plastic bag manufacturers and importers.

Mr Orina was speaking in Nakuru where he led a team of Nema officials in an operation to raid illegal plastic bags businesses in the town.

This followed a tip off on importers and distributers of the bags. However, the officials made no arrests.

“We have information that the plastic bags are still in circulation and that the operators of the business are using motorbikes to circulate the products. We will keep vigilance and ensure that the illegal business comes to an end,” said Mr Orina.

Manufacturers who use polythene to wrap up their products are exempted from the ban.

Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) said the ban will cost 60,000 jobs and force 176 manufacturers to close.

Kenya was also a major exporter of plastic bags to the region. The country joined more than 40 other countries that have banned, partly banned or heavily taxed plastic bags.

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