The Government of Kenya has announced a ban on the use, manufacture and import of all plastic bags. The ban is expected to take effect in six months. Environment Minister Judi W. Wakhungu gave the order published in a gazette notice in February and released to the public on March 15, earning praise from UN environmental agency, UNEP. This announcement comes a few weeks after the UN declared a “war on plastic” through its new Clean Seas campaign, which has already secured commitments to address major plastic pollution from 10 governments, as per the UN.
Some 100 million plastic bags are handed out every year in Kenya by supermarkets alone, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said in a statement. Long identified as a major cause of environmental damage and health problems, they kill birds, fish and other animals that mistake them for food, damage agricultural land, pollute tourist sites and provide breeding grounds for the mosquitoes that carry malaria and dengue fever.
“Kenya is taking decisive action to remove an ugly stain on its outstanding natural beauty,” said Erik Solheim, executive director of UNEP. “Plastic waste also causes immeasurable damage to fragile ecosystems – both on land and at sea – and this decision is a major breakthrough in our global effort to turn the tide on plastic.
Plastic bags contribute to the 8 million tonnes of plastic that leak into the ocean every year. At current rates by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish, wreaking havoc on marine fisheries, wildlife and tourism, according to UNEP.