NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
Hundreds of small traders in Kenya have clung
onto plastic bags for packaging their products despite a ban
effected last September by the government.
The traders across
the East African nation using the bags include those selling
vegetables, clothes, cooked food and milk.
Their usage of the
bags has given life to illegal production and sale of the
products that are a threat to the environment.
While traders are
aware of the ban and the penalties, they still use the bags to
pack products, noting they have no alternatives.
“I cannot pack my
vegetables in manilla bags. It cannot work because I wash the
vegetables,” Grace Mutuku, a grocery store operator in Komarock
on the east of Nairobi said on Wednesday.
“A small bag of
sliced vegetables goes for 0.2 dollars. This is what customers
are used to. I tried to use the khaki bags but it did not work
because of the water in the vegetables,” she recounted.
As many other
traders in the capital, she buys the plastic bags from shops in
River Road in downtown Nairobi or from Gikomba market.
“The traders sell
but not openly. They have to know you to sell lest they are
arrested,” she said.
Food seller Moses
Mugendi said he has stuck with plastic bags because customers
are not willing to pay for plastic tins.
He sells a cup of
githeri (maize and beans mixture) at 0.25 dollars and packs it
in plastic bags for free.
“If I am to sell it
in a container, I will charge 0.45 dollars, a price customers
are not willing to pay,” he said.
Sarah Ajwang, a
businesswoman in Busia, a town on the border of Kenya and
Uganda, who sells children clothes also said Wednesday that she
lacks alternative packaging to plastic bags.
“I move from town
selling my clothes in different open air markets. These markets
are dusty and the only way to protect the clothes from getting
dirty is to pack them in the bags,” she said.
She added that the
khaki bags cannot work with her because she needs to display the
products for customers to see before they buy.
“I buy the clear
bags from Uganda where they are not banned. A pack of 200 pieces
goes for 1.4 dollars,” she said.
However, as the
traders cling on the bags that they have used for decades,
supermarkets across the East African nation have managed to
transit, but this is because they sell the new bags to customers
at between 0.10 and 0.80 dollars.
Environment Authority (Nema) has intensified crackdown on those
using the plastic bags, with inspectors raiding several places
to ensure the public complies, but this seems to have offered
little deterrence especially for the traders in upcountry towns
and the suburbs in Nairobi.
Last week, Nema
ordered the closure of Burma market in Nairobi over what it
called “high level of violation of the plastic ban”.
The agency also
arrested 31 traders in Mombasa for being in possession of
plastic bags, and were taken to court, each fined 500 dollars
for the offense after pleading guilty.
With the use of the
plastic bans ongoing, total transition to alternative packaging
materials across the East African nation remains a dream, as
plastic bags from neighboring countries find their way into the
of use of the bags requires more than just a ban. It needs
change of attitude and public education on the danger of the
bags to environment. If people stop buying vegetables packed in
plastic bags, traders will stop using them,” said Ernest Manuyo,
a business management lecturer in Nairobi, adding that the small
traders need workable solutions to plastic bags.
packaging materials the agency recommends are bags made from
paper, bamboo straws and clothes. Citizens are also advised to
buy unpackaged food.
Kenya used up to 24
million plastic bags monthly, with half ending up in the
environment due to poor disposal. With the ban, the number has
declined significantly but it still remains high with the
continual use of the bags.