A ban on plastic bags came into force in Kenya on Monday in a bid to slow pollution. Offenders face going to jail or hefty fines.
The ban on the use, manufacture and importation of plastic carrier bags was carried through after the High Court threw out a challenge brought by importers who claim jobs will be lost and livelihoods threatened.
Dozens of countries have either restricted, banned outright or imposed levies for the use of plastic bags but Kenya’s new law is particularly tough, with fines of up to €32,000 and four-year prison sentences.
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that Kenyan supermarkets hand out as many as 100 million plastic bags every year.
The ban was first announced in February but suspended for six months to allow Kenyan consumers and shopkeepers to adjust to the new rules.
Kenya’s National Environment Management Agency (NEMA) took out ads in newspapers clarifying that while plastic carrier bags were banned, neither industrial manufacturers producing plastic-wrapped goods nor users of plastic bin liners will fall foul of the law.
The Retail Trade Association of Kenya said supermarket chains plan to provide re-useable, eco-friendly bags at a small price.
“We are subsidising the cost for the benefit of the consumer,” said Willy Kimani, director of the trade group and an executive at the Naivas supermarket chain.