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Hawkers arrested for selling sugarcane, plums wrapped in plastic bags

By Sigomba Ramadhan Omar | February 18th 2020
The traders allegedly selling sugarcane and plums wrapped in the banned plastic bags will be arraigned today. [Courtesy, NEMA]

Three Nairobi based hawkers risk a jail term and hefty fines after they were arrested yesterday using the outlawed plastic bags.

The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) on their Twitter handle said the traders who were allegedly selling sugarcane and plums wrapped in the banned plastic bags will be arraigned today.

“About 500 pieces of the bags were seized,” said NEMA.

If found guilty of the offence, the suspects will either be slapped with a massive fine ranging between Sh2 million to Sh4 million.

Failure to pay the fine, they risk being jailed for a period not exceeding four years as stipulated by Section 144 of the Environment Management Coordination Act (EMCA).

Depending on the weight of the matter, a suspect may be fined and imprisoned.

The Act states: “Any person who contravenes the provision of the gazette notice shall be liable to a fine of not less than two (2) million Kenya Shillings, and not more than four (4) million Kenya shillings, or imprisonment of a term of not less than one (1) year but not more than two (2) years or to both such fine and imprisonment.”

The arrest of the trio has elicited mixed reactions amongst Kenyans with Nairobi Woman Representative Esther Passaris calling for alternatives for hawking trade. 

“Solution needed for this type of hawking trade that is lucrative and a breadwinner for many youths. It is the government’s duty to ensure sustainable alternative hygienic packaging options in the era of banned plastics,” she said.

Passaris who seemed disturbed by the hawkers’ arrests said authorities should apprehend plastic bags suppliers and not the end-users.

Her sentiments were echoed by other netizens who asked NEMA to go for plastic bags’ manufacturers.

The government had advised Kenyans to use alternatives carrier bags made from sisal, paper, cloth, papyrus, and gunny bags.

This was after then Environment Cabinet Secretary Prof Judy Wakhungu through a gazette notice banned the use, manufacture and importation of plastic carrier bags for commercial and household packaging.

The ban was effected on February 28, 2019.

Kenya’s environmental degradation was widely attributed to the use of plastic bags which prompted authorities to push for the ban in order to address the menace.

Before the ban, joint research of NEMA, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Kenya Institute of Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA) said 100 million of plastic bags were handed out by supermarkets alone annually.

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