The East Africa Legislative Assembly (EALA) shelved debate on the EAC Polythene Materials Control Bill, 2016 after strong opposition from Kenya.
The EastAfrican has established that EALA was prompted to drop the Bill from the Order Paper during its sitting in Nairobi after Kenyan manufacturers opposed it.
On Wednesday, polythene and plastic sector players in Kenya held a closed-door meeting under the stewardship of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), where it was agreed that the country should maintain its stand against the Bill, which is seen as a threat to the local industry.
Bobi Odiko, EALA spokesman, confirmed that debate on the Bill, introduced during its August sitting in Arusha, had been put on hold until next year January.
“The Bill needs some more time for consultation with stakeholders. It will thus not feature for debate in this session,” he said.
The regional parliament hopes that pushing the debate to January could help build consensus among member countries and defuse the divisions generated by the Bill.
The Bill, fronted by Rwandan MP Patricia Hajabakiga, seeks to provide a legal framework for the preservation of a clean and healthy environment through the prohibition of manufacturing, sale, importation and use of polythene materials within East Africa.
But KAM chief executive officer Phyllis Wakiaga said that while Kenyan manufacturers are committed to proper waste management, the enactment of the law would not augur well for local industries.
“We support proper waste management but we need to understand the local industry has shrunk significantly due to excise duty and imports,” she said.
Instead of a blank ban on use of plastic bags, stakeholders in Kenya have suggested adjustment to specifications of polythene materials and the introduction of a levy to allow the National Environment Management Authority to manage the waste.
Kenya, together with Uganda, have been opposing the enactment of the Bill not only on the basis that plastic bags are widely used for packaging but also on the argument that it would lead to massive loss of jobs and investment running into billions of dollars.
Tanzania, on the other hand, has been contemplating joining Rwanda in imposing a total ban of non-biodegradable polythene bags.
Rwanda outlawed use of plastic bags in 2008 to protect the environment of polythene impurities.
Kigali has been pushing for the Bill which seeks to adopt common environmental regulations, incentives and standards on the use of biodegradable pesticides and packaging materials among others within the East African Community.
In 2011, Ms Hajabakiga managed to push the passing of the Bill at the regional parliament but it was never signed into law by the EAC heads of state after Kenya refused to assent and called for its review.
In opposing the Bill, Kenya is determined to protect the local industry that consists of about 176 companies with an estimated total investment of about $415 million. The industry in Kenya employs about 10,000 people directly and contributes $14.4 million in taxes annually.
Kenya has tried to contain the use of polythene materials by increasing excise tax although this has had minimal impact.
The light non-biodegradable plastic bags which are primarily used for packaging remain to be top environmental nuisance across the region.