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Shoppers to pay more in fresh carrier bags ban

Carrier bags
Carrier bags. PHOTO | FILE 

Kenyan shoppers will have to dig deeper into their pockets after the environmental watchdog Tuesday outlawed the manufacture, importation and use of light, ‘non-woven’ carrier bags.

The National Environment Management Authority (Nema) Tuesday said the ban on light non-woven bags would take effect at the end of this month, citing “heavy environmental consequences” on their continued use.

The non-woven bags replaced plastic carrier bags about two years ago after the government banned their use in retail and commercial packaging.

“The non-woven bags are known to bear positive characteristics in terms of reusability and durability as opposed to the conventional plastic carrier bags,” said Nema director- general Geoffrey Wahungu in a notice.

The directive is expected to see shoppers pay more as retailers and supermarket chains rush to comply with the law. The low-gauge carrier bags condemned by Nema sell for between Sh10 and Sh15 apiece while the recommended higher gauge carrier bags go for between Sh30 and Sh40.

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“Due to the rising need of the non-woven bags in the market, it has been noted over time that manufacturers of these bags are producing very “low gauge” poor quality non-woven bags which cannot be used multiple times but are disposed after single use,” Prof Wahungu added in the notice.

He warned that the single usage of the bags was leading to “heavy environmental consequences” due to poor disposal practices coupled with the lack of requisite infrastructure to sustainably manage the bags.

“In view of the above (Nema) directs that all manufacturers, importers, suppliers/distributors and users of these non-woven polypropylene bags should stop further manufacture, importation, supply and use of these bags in the Kenyan market effective 31st March 2019 until the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) gazettes a standard that will inform the quality of non-woven bags needed in the Kenyan market,” said Prof Wahungu.

Huge losses

The ban was faulted by the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), which blamed authorities for lack of predictability in stipulating manufacturing standards.

Manufacturers are expected to incur huge losses as they dispose of stocks they already have.

The Business Daily could not immediately establish how much stock of the low gauge carrier bags manufacturers are holding.

“The notice by Nema to stop further manufacture, importation, supply, distribution and use of non-woven polypropylene bags on the basis of low gauge and poor quality raises the underlying issue, which is the lack of standards to govern the quality of polypropylene bags in Kenya,” said KAM in a statement.

The lobby says Kebs should fast track development of the appropriate standards to ensure that imports and locally manufactured non-woven bags meet the required standards that the country would wish to have.

It warned that confusion about the standards was hurting businesses even as it maintained it was committed to protecting the environment.

“Predictability and consistency of government policies is central in attracting and retaining investors,” said KAM.

Nema director of legal services Irene Kamunge said those flouting the latest ban would face sanctions under the Environmental Management and Co-ordination law.

"Section 144 of the law says that any person who contravenes “any provision of this Act or of regulations made thereunder for which no other penalty is specifically provided is liable, upon conviction, to imprisonment for a term of not less than one year but not more than four years, or to a fine of not less than two million shillings but not more than four million shillings, or to both such fine and imprisonment or to both such fine and imprisonment.”

Anyone found selling, manufacturing or carrying them could face fines of up to Sh4 million or prison sentences of up to four years.

The 2017 ban on plastic bags, which came on the third attempt in a decade, saw Kenya join nations that are leading the war against use of plastics.

Environmentalists praised the ban, saying it would help to minimise pollution.

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