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Hefty Fines Could be Levied for Using Plastic Bags in Kenya

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The world's toughest ban on the use of plastic bags came into effect on 28 August in Kenya, after ten years of delays due to challenges through the courts.

The manufacture, sale or use of plastic bags could incur up to $38,000 in fines or four years imprisonment, although these charges are expected to be levied on corporations, rather than the general population. Ordinary shoppers are expected to receive a warning and have their bags confiscated, at least in the short term as the ban is implemented.

A statement by Kenya's National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) says that it 'is aware that the public still holds the bags in their homes and has made plans with retail outlets to have drop-off points'. Anybody entering the country will have to surrender their plastic bags on arrival. 

The ban was originally announced in March to give Kenyans the chance to change their habits, and follows on from other African nations such as South Africa, Uganda, Somalia, Rwanda and Eritrea, which have already outlawed their use. 

Plastic bags have long been recognised as a problem throughout Africa, with South Africa even declaring plastic bags their 'national flower' before banning them in 2003. Slaughterhouses in Nairobi have reportedly found as many as 20 plastic bags in the stomachs of cows and therefore entering the human food chain. (See an interview with Environment Minister CS Judi Wakhungu)

Currently, around 40 countries have either banned the use of plastic bags outright, or have otherwise restricted or placed levies on their use. The 5p charge for single bag use in the UK has led to an 80 per cent drop in their use, with a 10p tax proposed for the near future. Some supermarkets are removing their sale completely, and instead reducing their charges for environmentally friendly 'bags for life'.

At least eight million tonnes of plastic is currently circulating through the world's oceans, from the surface to the deep sea floor, according to a recent discovery by the Scottish Association for Marine Science.

 

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