In Summary
  • Sadly, Kenya’s record of enforcement of rules, including basic ones, is atrocious.

  • It is one thing to come up with an excellent rule that has the potential of change for the better and quite another to make it work.

  • In the villages and slums in towns, plastic bags are still as ubiquitous as the mobile phone.

Environmental experts have given Kenya’s ban on the use of plastic bags a ringing endorsement, putting the country in the league of those showing determination to fight pollution.

Though the ban is hardly six months old, and, therefore, hard to gauge if it has had any real effect, it certainly heralds a cleaner environment and a safer country for all.

Dr Edgar Gutiérrez, the president of the 2017 United Nations Environment Assembly, which is taking place in Nairobi, has described the ban as bold and called on other countries to follow Kenya’s example.

Yet beyond the platitudes is the underlying challenge of making the country plastics-free in the near future.

ENFORCEMENT RULES

Sadly, Kenya’s record of enforcement of rules, including basic ones, is atrocious. It is one thing to come up with an excellent rule that has the potential of change for the better and quite another to make it work.

Since the ban was effected, supermarkets that were using plastics as the standard carrying bags have since replaced them with more degradable ones.

But in the villages and slums in towns, plastic bags are still as ubiquitous as the mobile phone. The government must take the war on pollution beyond enacting laws. It must embark on a public education campaign to explain why the plastics ban is good for all and follow it up with deterrent punishment to those flouting it.