By Eleanor Knight
What did you last take your shopping home in? For most of us, the regrettable answer is a plastic bag. However, for the community of Kenya, this subconscious act now comes with a hefty punishment.
Officially passed in February, the Kenyan Government declared that from the 28th August people caught carrying plastic bags could face penalties of over $47,000 (AUD) in fines and up to 4 years behind bars. And it doesn’t stop there, corporations caught producing and importing these single-use plastic carriers will also face the same strict fines and jail time.
A leap in action
Like many countries throughout the world, single-use plastic bags have become an epidemic in Kenya. Not only do these items contribute to a large percentage of blocked drains and roadside waste, they are also held responsible for numerous accounts of livestock deaths due to cattle choking on carriers. Marine life is also suffering the consequence, with huge numbers of bags ending up off the coast of Kenya every year.
In a recent report issued by The UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), it was revealed that more than 100 million plastic bags are handed out in Kenya every year.
Of course, there has been much outcry regarding the recent ban, including many small business owners voicing the decision will result in a loss of jobs and profits. However, despite the claims, supporters of the movement believe the change will heighten revenue for local Kenyan businesses, with the demand for reusable bags includes canvas carriers, totes and baskets expected the rise.
Closer to home
The discussion surrounding plastic waste is big with many governments throughout the world. The UK has already instated charges for plastic bag users (about $0.09 AUD a carrier), and the nation of Costa Rica also intends to follow suit in an effort to ban all single-use plastic by 2021.
As for Australia (the world’s second highest producer of waste), supermarket giants including Coles and Woolworths have said they too, plan to phase out the use plastic bags in stores nationwide. This movement is due to be completed across Australia by June 2018.
Single-use plastic bags are one of the big contributors to the 8 million tonnes of plastic waste, dumped into the ocean every year. To find out more about Australia’s plastic waste epidemic, watch War On Waste: Ban The Bag.