In current times, many African countries have conferred in doing away with use of plastic bags as knowledge on their impact on the environment has broadened.
Among the African countries urging its neighbours to follow suit is Kenya and Rwanda, being the only East African Community member states that have banned plastic carrier bags.
In aiming to control the smuggling of the product into Kenya’s territory, the country is sternly urging her neighbours Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi to do likewise.
Kenya’s National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) Director General, Professor Geoffrey Wahungu alleged that despite the ban, the regulator still faces challenges in controlling contraband materials.
“We have done well but we will not be free from plastic pollution if Uganda and Tanzania continue to produce the materials, which are sneaked into the country through the borders,” Prof Wakhungu alluded.
Meanwhile, at the last Heads of State Summit in Arusha, the leaders were expected to assent to the EAC Polythene Materials Control Bill, 2018, which would have seen the region have a common framework on the elimination of the use of these bags.
However, some member states had reservations with some sections of the Bill, despite the fact that it was debated and approved the by the regional parliament.
Nema, however, suffered a setback after a Nairobi court lifted the ban on the non-woven carrier bags.
High Court Judge Aaron Makau ruled in favour of the Importers and Small Traders Association of Kenya and two others who challenged the ban, arguing that they had invested heavily through acquisition of machinery, raw material and labour, adding that the ban was bound to occasion massive job losses and curtail the economic rights of many Kenyans who rely on the trade of non-woven carrier bags.
Nema says that directors general from the EAC member states are collaborating to address the challenges, but are bogged down by slow policy making by their respective governments.
“We have strategies in the EAC and where all the directors general meet every year to work on uniform standards. The standards on implementation of plastic would have been easier to implement if we had all joined the fight, but this is a challenge,” Prof Wahungu further added.