Kenya introduces plastic bag ban

Kenyan landfills filled with tons of plastic bags each year.
Kenyan landfills filled with tons of plastic bags each year. Photo credit: Getty

The production, importation or use of plastic bags could lead to fines of NZ$52,000 or four years imprisonment for offenders after Kenya introduced a plastic bag ban.

The introduction of the ban in the east African nation is one of the toughest pollution reducing laws on the planet.

Those using plastic bags for industrial purposes will be exempt from the law, and for now, the Kenyan public will be warned and have bags confiscated as the law is introduced.

Kenya joins other African nations including Cameroon, Mali, Tanzania and Ethiopia as countries that have adopted similar policies against plastic bag usage.

A reduction of plastic bags in Kenya would cost jobs according to manufacturers but the government says the production of environmentally friendly bags will create more jobs than those that are lost.

The United Nations Environmental Program said that more than 100 million plastic bags are used in Kenya each year and that they've been identified as a major environmental and health problem.

If plastic bags continue to be used and discarded at current rates then by 2050 "we will have more plastic in the ocean than fish", UNEP marine expert Habib El-Habr said.

The plastic bag ban is the third attempt in ten years at such a ban in Kenya.