From Sunday, Kenyans will mark a chapter by reverting to the welcome old life of plastic-free. Granted, consumers are concerned about cost and availability of alternative bags. Fear of arrest and potential corruption by county staff is a scare for many. Yet, change is never embraced easily. The pros outweigh the cons on the ban of plastics. There will be transfer (no long-term loss) of jobs for those in manufacturing sector. For consumers, it will be change of lifestyle – a bit of inconvenience in which people will get accustomed to carrying bags from home – or spend more buying a new one.
But there are even more fundamental benefits of an aesthetic environment as relates to the economy and human health. With a plastics-free environment, clean, green and safe towns will boost our tourism - as the filthy heaps of plastic garbage will become history. On health, the real risk of carcinogens from plastics will equally be minimised.
Less plastic packaging will lead to better and healthier food and drink choices, as well as beauty products. Better health will cut costs associated with treatment. Clean informal settlements will fetch more income for landlords and the benefits will be extended elsewhere.
Aesthetic environments enhance a sense of human dignity. It makes people happy, and happy people live longer on average.
Mr Stephen Mutoro is Cofek Secretary General
The government may be ready in terms of structures and policies to implement this very positive plan for our environment, but ordinary Kenyans are not prepared yet to forget about their most available and cheapest means of packaging.
The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) ought to have learnt lessons on why previous attempts to ban plastic bags in 2007 and 2011 failed. Hence once a plan was in place, enough ought to have been done to educate and prepare the nation to adopt more environment-friendly methods of packaging.
It is interesting that hours to effecting this ban, Nema is organising an event in Nairobi to show stakeholders alternative innovations. National awareness, which includes such shows, ought to have picked up immediately an implementation plan was ready, with full involvement of stakeholders.
The plastics ban seems to have picked up in the public domain just three months ago, leaving Kenyans asking questions. How will an ordinary village trader package milk? What happens to the thousands employed in the plastics industry? The big question that Nema should ask itself is, 'Have we done enough to change Kenyans' attitude to embrace a clean environment?'
Mr Chrispory Juma is a Public Health Specialist