A Kenyan woman arranges recycled materials to make plastic bag in Nairobi, Kenya, Sept. 10, 2012. (Xinhua/Ding Haitao)
NAKURU, Kenya, March 21 (Xinhua) -- Increased public awareness may herald a success for Kenya's latest ban on plastic bags that has seen abortive attempts in the past, an environmental activist has said.
The February 28 gazette notice by Kenya's environmental ministry to prohibit use, manufacture and importation of plastic bags for commercial and household wrapping is the fourth attempt by the Kenyan government to end pollution with the non-biodegradable solid waste.
The previous attempts made in 2005, 2007 and 2011 failed to materialize amid fierce opposition from manufacturers and flawed enforcement mechanism.
But this time it will work, said James Waikibia, environmental activist who has been running an online campaign against large-scale use of plastic bags for the past two years.
"It has been a long journey and I am convinced we are finally going to make it a reality. Other countries succeeded and Kenya is not an exception," said Waikibia.
He believes people are more knowledgeable of the dangers of the plastic use and will thus support the ban.
"The current level of awareness among the people on the dangers of plastic waste is different from the scenario a while back. People have become enlightened on their health and environmental hazards," he said.
Waikibia said it was urgent to wipe out existence of the plastic bags considering the harm they cause to the environment and the people and the difficulties of recycling them.
The United Nations environment agency UNEP estimates that at least 100 million plastic bags are distributed out from the retail shops in Kenya.
It has warned of the probability of having more plastic bags in the inland waters than fish by 2050 if proactive measures are not taken to buck the trend.
Rwanda, one of the six countries forming the East African Community (EAC), has managed to stop use of the plastic bans. Although Tanzania and Uganda have also made similar bans, their governments are struggling to ensure a clean-up in circulation of the plastic bags and containers.
The six EAC members -- Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi and South Sudan -- are pushing for a total ban of the plastic materials in the region through an East African Community Polythene Materials Control Bill (2016). Debate on the proposed laws at the East African Legislative Assembly is expected on May, 2017.
Use of biodegradable materials for packaging goods is not new in Kenya. Waikibia said some retail outlets were already offering alternative re-usable biodegradable bags.
"There is no way we can say that we don't have an alternative. If you go to some supermarkets you will find some reusable bags which are also biodegradable. This is better than packaging goods in two plastic bags which a few hours later are dumped anywhere," he said.