There were fears that the disruption caused by taking the bold step to do away with plastic bags would be catastrophic. Three days after the ban took effect, there seems to be less upheaval than was initially feared.
Kenya has been dilly-dallying as plastic throttles our environment. This state of affairs has largely been blamed on lack of spine on the part of environmental authorities to effect a ban. The excuse has generally been that it would kill a thriving industry.
When they were introduced, plastic bags were cheap and convenient to use in packaging food, clothes, and a wide variety of other items. They are easy to produce and use. But over the years, they have become an eyesore. This is made worse by their haphazard disposal, which has consequently degraded the environment because plastic is not biodegradable.
Now that Kenya has joined the group of brave countries that have outlawed the production and use of plastics, we expect the authorities to enforce the ban. We laud the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) for giving a grace period to consumers and their planned mopping up of plastic bags.
In the past, we have had bans that were effected hurriedly and often created loopholes for corruption, where Kenyans caught on the wrong side of the law were exploited by enforcing agents. Nema has not carried out the best of sensitisation campaigns, but it is better late than never. It can still conduct such a drive.
Indeed, Kenya should borrow from Rwanda, which effected the ban eight years ago. It did not insist on penalties, but went out of the way to explain to the citizens the importance of not using plastic bags. The ban was gradual and today, every Rwandan citizen feels obligated to keep the environment clear of plastics. With time, the people have felt responsible for their surroundings.
As a result, Kigali is one of the cleanest cities in Africa. What Rwanda did can also be done here.