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Nema, manufacturers now form team to resolve plastic ban crisis

Some of the company representatives who attended a meeting convened by KAM and Nema to discuss the plastic ban at Oshwal Centre in Westlands, Nairobi,  August 30, 2017. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA
Some of the company representatives who attended a meeting convened by KAM and Nema to discuss the plastic ban at Oshwal Centre in Westlands, Nairobi, August 30, 2017. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA 

Environmental watchdog Nema on Wednesday struck a deal with manufacturers to establish a joint crisis committee that will resolve outstanding issues arising from the ban on plastic bags.

The technical teams drawn from the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) and the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) will seek to iron out operating challenges associated with ban.

The decision was made at a stormy meeting that brought together Nema director-general Geoffrey Wahungu and about 500 manufacturers of plastic bags who had suspended operations, pending clarity on the ban that came into force on Monday.

Manufacture, importation and use of plastic bags for primary industrial packaging and garbage collection were, however, exempted from the ban.

Nema had last week asked all manufacturers, importers and users of plastic bags for primary industrial packaging to obtain clearance letters allowing them to continue in the business.

Producers of the bags, however, said they had been forced to suspend operations on Tuesday because of “complexities in obtaining clearance,” from Nema.

On Wednesday, Prof Wahungu defended a take-back scheme and a plan to compel consumer goods companies and the industrial packaging firms to label their packaging material, saying it was necessary to ensure the exemptions made for primary packaging are not abused. Manufacturers are seeking clarity on the two.

Prof Wahungu said the environment watchdog would fast-track the clearance process to enable the manufacturers get back to business.

“We will fast-track the process so you can all go back to work,” said the Nema boss even as he insisted there would be no turning back from the plastic bags ban. Manufacturers who have fiercely opposed the ban, however, complained that it had been rushed.

“What we believe as an association is we need a clean environment and economic development. The middle ground is sustainable development. We want a situation that is a win-win for every Kenyan,” said KAM chief executive Phyllis Wakiaga.

Pressure continued to pile on the environmental watchdog to ensure a smooth implementation of the ban that will not adversely affect industries.

“The ban is a significant step to protect nature, but let everyone be included in its implementation,” said the Association of Kenya Suppliers chairman Kimani Rugendo in a statement.

Nema had said earlier the ban applies to carrier bags and flat bags constructed with handles and with or without gussets.

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