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Economy

Relief for traders as court suspends Nema’s bags ban

reusable carrier bags
Vendors sell reusable carrier bags in Nakuru. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The High Court has temporarily suspended notice banning the use and sale of non-woven carrier bags by the environment watchdog Nema.

Justice Makau Mutua issued the reprieve to manufacturers and traders of the bags Thursday.

The ban on the popular polypropylene bags sold in supermarkets and other retail stores came into effect on Monday

The National Environment Management Authority (Nema) explained that the bags were ‘‘very thin, poor quality non-reusable”.

“An order is hereby issued suspending Nema’s directive stopping the use, importation and supply or distribution of non-woven polypropylene bags effective from March 31 pending the hearing and determination of this case,” the judge said.

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The judge said the Nema order will take effect when the Kenya Bureau of Standards sets standards for shopping bags.

Nema on Monday started the crackdown on these bags, prompting a shortage.

Nema reckons the thin non-woven bags are damaging the environment because of poor disposal and lack of infrastructure for recycling.

Imprisonment

Those in breach faced a fine of up to Sh4 million and imprisonment of not more than four years, a punishment equivalent to those found producing, selling or even using plastic bags that were banned in August 2017.

The petitioners opposed to the ban, saying the problem was not the non-woven bags, but regulations to guide recycling and waste management.

They also alleged that Nema has failed to protect them through regulations hence made it easy for low quality cheap bags to flood the market.

“This is a failure and omission on the part of Nema, thus unfair as well as unjust to punish us,” said Ms Anne Nyokabi, the organising secretary of the association of the bags traders.

The traders claimed that they have invested heavily in terms of capital through acquisition of machinery, raw material and labour.

Nairobi based firm, Hi-Plast, sued the State for a Sh2 billion compensation for banning plastic bags, saying it had invested heavily in machinery and raw materials.

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