Feature: Kenyans try adapting to ban on non-woven shopping bags starting Monday

Source: Xinhua| 2019-03-31 22:15:26|Editor: xuxin
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NAIROBI, March 31 (Xinhua) -- At her stall at the main market in Kitengela, a suburb on the outskirts of Kenya's capital Nairobi, Agnes Mutua on Sunday hang several non-woven bags with a safety pin.

The about 150 bags swayed as the wind blew strongly, reminding Mutua of their presence. She looked at them, and then arranged them well after the wind disturbance.

As she went about her business, Mutua hoped that customers would snap up all the bags by the end of Sunday.

But certainly this would not be possible, as for the last 10 days since the environment authority announced a ban on the non-woven polypropylene bags that takes effect Monday, demand declined drastically.

"These bags would now end up as dead stock. I don't know what to do with them because starting Monday it would be illegal to trade or use the bags," she said.

Her dilemma is shared by hundreds of other small and big traders and supermarkets across the East African nation.

And so are consumers, some who had bought the bags in plenty and were carrying them around to avoid purchasing every time.

While the traders by the close of Sunday would be left with 'dead stock', consumers are grappling with what to use from Monday.

"The government should have given us more time to sell the stock that we had and allowed better transition because they allowed the bags in the first place after banning plastic ones," said Seth Odingo, a wholesale trader of the bags in Nairobi.

Kenya on March 19 issued a ban on the importation, manufacture, supply and use of the non-woven polypropylene bags citing increased pollution.

National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) director-general Geoffrey Wahungu while announcing the ban said manufacturers were producing 'low gauge' poor quality products which could not be used multiple times leading to pollution.

"The single usage of the bags has led to environmental consequences due to poor disposal habits currently being witnessed in the country coupled with lack of infrastructure to manage the bags," said Wahungu.

Wahungu has warned Kenyans of arrests starting April 1 since it would be illegal to use the non-woven bags.

Anyone found with the bags which NEMA says contain plastics, commits an offence attracting a fine between two million shillings (20,000 U.S. dollars) and 40,000 dollars, or jail term of between one year and four years, or both.

"Just like the plastic bag, the non-woven bag is illegal in Kenya. Kenyans should find alternative carriers for their shopping and foodstuffs," he said.

Across markets in the country, the non-woven bags have been going for as little as 0.05 dollars for the smaller size and 0.20 dollars for the bigger size. The price is the same as those of the banned plastic bags.

However, due to rise in demand for the bags, manufacturers have been making low quality products that allow only single use.

The bags that were supposed to be reused therefore became the latest addition to the pollutants of rivers, markets, open spaces in residential areas and they were strewn at dumping sites across the East African nation.

Environmentalists have lauded the latest ban noting that it would help reduce pollution by the non-woven bags which were on the rise.

"The law is the law, I will have to follow it but where do we take all the non-woven bags we have accumulated. If we dump them in the normal waste, they will end up in the environment at dumping sites," said Sylvia Muturi, a social worker in Nairobi, noting she would comply with the ban.

To comply with the ban, Kenyan supermarkets last week started to replace the cheaper none-woven bags with the woven ones which cost a little high, from 0.50 dollars each.