They may have protested in front of the court, the industrialists have not been successful in this war waged by the authorities against the plastic. Announced a year ago, the law banning all single-use plastics such as water bottles or straws – in the national parks, beaches, forests and other protected areas of Kenya came into effect this Friday, June 5, 2020. Three years after the ban on plastic bags – one of the most stringent in the world –, this new measure has become more concrete on the occasion of the world environment Day.
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A decisive step
The ban has been welcomed by the environmental activist Dipesh Pabari, founder of the first sailing vessel constructed entirely of recycled plastic, which in 2019 has travelled the coasts of kenya and tanzania to raise awareness of plastic pollution. "We were able to observe the catastrophic effects that single-use plastics have on our ecosystems and our communities," he said in a statement. "And now, at the time of the pandemic, we see first hand what happens when we destroy our planet," he added.
" This prohibition is again a first that is intended to deal with the disastrous plastic pollution affecting Kenya and the world, and we hope that it will catalyse policy and similar measures within the east African community Is ", said the minister of Tourism, Najib Balala. Before the outbreak of coronavirus, Kenya hosted each year two million tourists, attracted by the splendid beaches of the Indian ocean and by the discovery of the "Big Five" – five animals that are emblematic of the savannah.
"By banning single-use plastic in its national parks and protected areas, Kenya continues to show commitment to face the global scourge of plastic pollution," said UNEP in a statement.
But the protected areas represent only about 11 % of the country and a ban on larger plastic bottles will be more difficult, according to James Wakibia, a photographer and activist in kenya who has advocated for the ban of bags in 2017.
In the world, 127 countries have legislation in one way or another, the use of plastic bags, according to UNEP. Among them, 91 countries, of which 34 were in Africa and 29 in Europe, prohibit or restrict the production, importation or commercial distribution. And lawmakers in kenya are among the most severe : the import and sale of bags, single-use, are punishable by a prison sentence of up to four years or fines of up to eur 35 000. Their use also gives rise to a fine of approximately 270 to 1 350 euros, sometimes with a sentence of one year imprisonment. Results : the findings of a survey conducted by the national Authority of environment management in Kenya (NEMA), 80 % of the population has stopped using plastic bags since the entry into force of the prohibition.
The government faced new problems
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But Kenya still has a very long walk in front of him to make the fruits of this policy are visible. In spite of the severe penalties provided, the waste plastics have not completely disappeared. The country has more than 170 manufacturers of plastics packaging. "It is good that Kenya will ban all single-use plastics in the protected areas, but we think the massive amounts of plastic waste carried by rivers into lakes and oceans ? Lake Nakuru is a good example, thousands of plastic waste is flowing all the days ", raises this defender of the environment on Twitter.
The consequences of these misuses are serious for the environment, where these bags littering often the down-sides, are regularly found stuck in the branches of trees, are sometimes eaten by cattle and end up in rivers and the Indian ocean. A study supported by the government has revealed that more than 50 % of the cattle near urban areas had plastic bags in the belly. The consequences are also serious for the populations. The plastic waste would eventually clog waterways and pipelines, which worsened the floods in the rainy season.
Another problem this time created by the ban on plastic bags : the imports from China and other countries of bags often polypropylene less expensive than those produced in the national territory, but also more very poor quality and non-recyclable. Even if Africa is a world leader in terms of number of laws to ban single-use plastics in force, there is still much to do.
Patrick Mwesigye, programme officer, regional UNEP, explained to the AFP that the degree of success of these regulations varied by country. Rwanda, where plastic bags are banned for more than a decade, is regarded as one of the greatest successes. "But Rwanda had the advantage that it does not make a lot of plastic ", when the ban came into force, " said Mr. Mwesigye.
The countries with manufacturing industries or import of plastic have made it more difficult to implement these measures, because they have implications on employment. "In Kenya, [ ... ], it worked very well. In spite of everything, you still have the plastic that is smuggled from neighboring countries ", such as Uganda, " he adds. The expert observes that some countries have put in place these bans before we have found suitable alternatives, and that the control and the practical implementation are sometimes problematic.
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