Manufacturers protest as Kenya bans production, use of plastic bags

Wednesday March 22 2017

A dumping site choking with plastic shopping

A dumping site choking with plastic shopping bags. On March 14, 2017 Kenya banned the use, manufacture and importation of all plastic bags. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Kenya has joined Tanzania and Rwanda in banning the use, manufacture and importation of plastics, despite stiff opposition from manufacturers.
Following Nairobi’s change of heart, the EAC Polythene Materials Control Bill 2016, is set for a smooth sailing in the East African Legislative Assembly.

On March 14, Kenya’s Environment Minister Judi Wakhungu, said in a notice that the government had “banned the use, manufacture and importation of all plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging” effective from September this year.
At the start of this year, Tanzania outlawed the use of the polythene bags, with an implementation date of July to allow for manufacturers to finish their stocks.

Rwanda leads in the efforts to rid East Africa of the environmental nuisance the plastic waste has become. Kigali has successfully implemented a total ban on polythene bags since 2006.

Uganda is said to be also considering an amendment to its 2009 law to effect a total ban.

Kenyan manufacturers, who have opposed previous attempts by the government, said they had not been “extensively consulted” on the decision.
Their resistance comes even as The EastAfrican saw documents submitted by both the Kenyan and Ugandan manufacturers to the East African Business Council (EABC) over the proposed East African Legislative Assembly’s EAC Polythene Materials Control Bill, 2016 to ban the plastics across the region.

Last week, Kenyan and Ugandan manufacturers met in Kigali under the auspices of EABC where they both submitted their input on the proposed Bill, barely two months after Kenya successfully lobbied the EALA members sitting in Nairobi to drop a Bill that sort to impose a total ban on polythene bags in the region.

The EALA Bill, was reintroduced last August in Arusha by Rwandan Member of Parliament Patricia Hajabakiga, but has faced still opposition from manufactures from Kenya and Uganda.

During last week’s meeting in Kigali, EABC executive director Lilian Awinja pleaded for more time for wider consultations given the concerns raised by the Kenyan and Ugandan manufacturers, adding that they had already written to the speaker requesting for more time.

“This Bill is a noble initiative to our region. However, it is our humble plea that we undertake thorough private sector consultations so as to include our input to EALA,” said Ms Awinja at the meeting that was attended by EALA Speaker Daniel Kidega and other lawmakers.
Kenya’s Principal Secretary for EAC Affairs Betty Maina told The EastAfrican that the gazettement of the law would require supporting legislations especially on waste management to make the law effective.

“The manufactures are raising a valid point. We will also have to address the waste management element so as to have this menace successfully dealt with. We also have to put in mind that there will be sector losses in terms of jobs and revenues which will have to be addressed,” Ms. Maina said, adding that the country will  support the EALA bill set for debate in May, once conclusive deliberations have been done to plug in interested parties concerns. Ms Maina is a former chief executive officer of Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM).

The EastAfrican has learnt that both the Kenyan and Ugandan manufactures want a tweak of the Bill to change its title, with an emphasis on regulation rather than complete prohibition.

“We want the Bill to address prohibition rather than a complete ban because as much as polythene bags is being targeted as an environmental hazard, the Bill is silent on other forms of waste such as industrial, medical, e-waste and the rest. We also need to lay emphasis to deterring littering and improper waste disposal and not use microns as a standard measure,” the Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA) argued in the submission.
KMA’s submission to EALA also argues against imposing the total ban on plastics, instead placing emphasis on waste management.

“The prohibition of plastic bags has a direct and substantial effect on sustainability of existing polythene businesses and as a result affect Kenyan economy. This puts at risk the thriving polythene bags industry in the country that supports employment and contributes to the tax base of the country,” KAM argues.

It wants EALA to encourage the use of bio-degradable products, fiscal incentives such as Green Levy Funds, and penalties, in a bid to address waste management.

KAM is also proposing tax incentives for manufactures of bio degradable packaging products and those promoting waste management. It is also calling for tax incentives on capital goods for recycling.

The Kenyan manufacturers protested the government’s decisions, noting that the Statutory Instruments Act, calls for appropriate consultation and impact assessment by any regulation-making authorities before issuing a policy directive – especially if the directive is likely to have direct or substantial effect on business.

“The challenge with plastics is not a production issue but a waste management and consumer behaviour issue. A ban that intends to enforce a sudden change in consumer behaviour will not succeed in the long run,” the manufacturers, through their lobby KAM said, citing South Africa as a country that has had to reverse a decision on a similar ban.