Ban plastic bags now or risk an environmental disaster soon

By: JAMES WAKIBIA

Plastic bags thinner than 60 microns are regarded as non-reusable and problematic when recycling.

Environmentalists believe that continued production of millions of these non-biodegradable bags is a disaster-in-waiting.

These very thin plastic bags — some so thin they can only be used once and mostly issued by supermarkets, grocery stores, and kiosks — are choking our lakes and rivers and are blocking major drainage systems in our towns.

It has been shown that they contribute to air pollution by releasing harmful carbon when burned, a common practice in Kenyan landfills. In the face of these alarming reports, it is vital that we stop sweeping this looming disaster under the carpet.

El Nino rains are looming. Are we prepared for the consequences of drainage channels clogged with plastic bags?

A WORKABLE SOLUTION

An outright ban is the only workable solution. We have already demonstrated our inability to protect the environment by reckless dumping, a citizenry that is unaware and does not care, government agencies that do not work, and NGOs that have forgotten their calling.

A ban on plastic bags thinner than 60 or even 100 microns will cure this malignant tumour eating Kenya.

The amount of plastic bags and wrappers in our rivers is staggering.

According to a report by Magdalene Wanja (Daily Nation, October 2, 2014), a total of 24 tonnes of plastic was collected in 2013 from the shores of Lake Nakuru.

AN ACTIVE ROLE

In this report, the Kenya Wildlife Service said the lake would soon be “too toxic for the current aquatic life as well as herbivores that often eat the same non-biodegradable material leading to their deaths”.

Lake Nakuru is only a tip of the plastic bag iceberg; similar effects are happening elsewhere. It is time for the bold step of removing the threat at the source: reduction or elimination of the manufacture of these bags.

Recently #BanPlasticsKe and #ISupportBanPlasticsKe were trending in Kenya, with the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Prof Judy Wakhungu, tweeting on September 28: “@JudiWakhungu I support #BanPlasticsKe @NemaKenya already working with RETRAK on modalities …” I took that as the government position.

The Cabinet Secretary should play a more active role in ensuring that every Kenyan lives in a clean and sanitary environment as enshrined in Article 42 of our Constitution.