By Eleen Korir
CONQUERING THE POLYTHENE BAG MENACE
Recently the cabinet secretary in charge of the environment announced a ban on the use, manufacture and importation of all plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging by 28th August, 2017. Looking closely and from an environmental point of view, this is a great step towards reduction of environmental pollution by the non-degradable polythene material that has been a great menace here in Kenya.
What is the Impact of the Ban on the Common Citizen?
Polythene bags have been used for a very long time for many purposes. Most commodities- sugar, salt, bread, groceries…name them, are packed in polythene paper at the shops and supermarkets.
Additionally, polythene bags are the most commonly used carrying bag after doing shopping. These all end up in our litter bins, dumpsites and in open places due to improper waste disposal sites and mechanisms. It is also a source of income for the manufacturers and re sellers. This therefore brings many questions on the implementation of the ban;
- Will the cost of basic commodities increase/decrease?
- Will the manufactures close shop? In Kenya there are about 176 plastic manufacturing companies (as cited in http://allafrica.com/stories/201703160067.html)
- Will they shift to Eco-friendly packages? The cost implications? Will they require new machinery? What raw material will they need?
- What will be used to pack the commodities currently packaged using polythene?
- What will I carry my shopping with?
- On a lighter note… when we were young in upcountry we used polythene to make playing balls… if this still happens, what will the young girls and boys use to make balls?
When you walk around Nairobi City, including the CBD and in many other towns in Kenya, the paper bag pollution from littering and dumping is very clear despite the presence of the county government cleaning services.
Why is this case? Lack of proper public education and awareness on use and proper waste disposal mechanisms in my opinion, is a big problem here in Kenya and many developing countries.
Is the Ban on Use Of Polythene Paper a Solution to the Waste Management Menace?
Some countries like Rwanda have managed to ban use of non-degradable polythene bags and the country is beautiful… J from pictures. In Kenya, NO! I think no…. or we are not yet there, because of above reasons and inadequate funds allocated to this sector and the never-ending battle of corruption in the land.
Ignorance, negligence and lack of awareness on proper waste management is another big challenge that has brought about the polythene menace that has led to blockage of drainage, unsightly scenes on our beautiful country, plant and animal suffocation and degradation of soil fertility.
Waste management and disposal requires segregation at source to allow proper disposal hence environmental conservation, prevention of diseases and healthy living. Currently the waste properly managed or at least a decent attempt is made towards its management is hospital waste. Others especially the non-degradable including polythene bags and electronic waste is a journey yet to start here in Kenya.
What can be done to solve this Menace?
- Device a working waste management mechanism
- Raise awareness on proper waste management
- Allocate adequate resources towards this course
- Implement the regulations on waste management to the later.
What Can Waste Polythene Paper be used for?
There are many uses of waste polythene and plastic bags;
- Used as part of concrete in building https://www.researchgate.net/publication/268689039_Effect_of_Waste_Polythene_on_Compressive_Strength_of_Concrete
- Converting it to liquid fuel (International Journal of Environment and Waste Management: https://phys.org/news/2014-01-polyethylene-liquid-fuel.html