Wakhungu faults job loss numbers linked to plastic ban

Environment minister Judi Wakhungu. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Environment minister Judi Wakhungu. FILE PHOTO | NMG  

Industrialists have been accused of exaggerating expected job losses due to the ban on manufacture and import of plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging.

Environment secretary Judi Wakhungu accused the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) of not telling the truth and promised to provide “real” data.

“I want to assure the public that the figures being put by KAM of the job loss are exaggerated. The number of jobs that will be created will be more than those lost,” Prof Wakhungu told the parliamentary Committee on Environment.

“The issue of good faith is important here and KAM should tell Kenyans the truth. We have all records of our engagement and will table it.”

The manufacturers’ lobby had earlier said the ban imposed by the Environment secretary would lead to loss of approximately 600,000 jobs and indirect employment through retailers, wholesalers and outlets.

“The manufacturers knew 15 years ago that this day would come,” said Prof Wakhungu.

On February 28, she published a legal notice announcing a ban on domestic and commercial use of plastic from September.

Kenya joins countries such as Cameroon, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Mauritania and Malawi that have adopted or announced such bans.

Some 100 million plastic bags are handed out every year in Kenya by supermarkets alone, the United Nations Environment Programmme (Unep) said in a statement.

The UN agency termed plastic bags the top challenge for urban waste disposal in Kenya, particularly in the poorest communities where access to disposal systems is limited.

The Unep said the bags have long been identified as a major cause of environmental damage and health problems, killing birds, fish and other animals that mistake them for food.

They also damage agricultural land, pollute tourist sites and provide breeding grounds for the mosquitoes.