n 2017, Kenya won praise globally when it banned polythene bags to maintain a healthy environment.
However, four years down the line, the outlawed commodity has made a big comeback. While the thin nylon bag is in use openly in markets and homes, some vendors have also short-circuited the system by embracing the use of cling film, which has equally devastating effects.
In markets and neighbourhood food outlets, the polythene bags have taken over from the non-woven bags that were introduced as an alternative.
A spot-check done by Nation in various markets in the city revealed the unfortunate truth brandished by local traders in broad daylight.
Anthony, a trader at the city market for 10 years, says the use of plastic bags did not stop completely.
When the ban was enforced, it was difficult to use them publicly, but over time, it started they have crept back and now almost every small-scale trader is using polythene bags to package their products — the Mama Mbogas (vegetable sellers) to fruit vendors and even those selling milk using at the ‘milk ATMs’.
Samuel Mutie who operates several butcheries and nyama choma joints in Embakasi says the blame falls on the government for coming up with a half-baked plan to effect the ban. He claims users were not provided with realistic alternatives.
“The plastic bag is a multipurpose item and the government never gave us an alternative that was practical. The non-woven bag, unfortunately, is not multipurpose and therefore the demand will always be there for plastic bags,” says Mr Mutie.
But Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko, while admitting that the single-use plastic bag remains a menace, blames neighbouring countries.
“The problem comes from our neighbours because I can assure you that these items are not being produced in Kenya. We are doing our best, but we also have institutional challenges. I am aware that the single-use plastic is still in use,” Mr Tobiko told Nation.
However, Nema Director General Mamo B Mamo confirmed that since the ban, the authority has apprehended five manufacturers in Syokimau, Machakos County.
“We also noticed that the plastic bags have made a comeback and we have already sent officials to all 47 counties for a crackdown. We have teamed up with other agencies, including the police and they will be targeting market places. The challenge we have is behaviour change, also by manufacturers,” said Mr Mamo.