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Why we need to ready ourselves for life after pervasive plastic bags

By Deckillah Omukoba | August 31st 2017

Life after the ban on plastic bags seems to be an enigma. We are a people groping, trying to navigate the challenges and handicap of operating without a tool we were much-accustomed to, and it is proving to be a complex puzzle whose pieces do not seem to be coming together.

From the ‘mama mboga’ who relies on the plastic bags to sell her produce to the man who over the years has raised his family from the income he makes from the local plastic bag factory, this turn of events is such an intertwined challenge that we must appreciate that not factoring in everything is as good as not factoring in anything.

Nil option

The cry we hear, especially from the business community and the supply chain, which is typically the cry of all of us, is that we do not seem to have another option, especially in instances where these plastic bags seemed to be the only saviour.

Therefore this ‘say goodbye to plastic bags’ narrative is a wanting and problematic closure even though our over-dependent, unhealthy relationship with plastic bags has had a negative effect on the environment and has to end.

We must collectively join forces with the understanding that to make a transition of any kind we must think through the options, possibilities and contingencies. We must be intentional in preparing for the new norm and develop a strategy for success, and this will require our minds to unravel.

We all agree on our propensity towards respect for the environment and can only envision the sanity that will be there if our environment is plastic bag-free.

This notwithstanding, the way we put a closure to this rather unhealthy relationship is crucial to our survival, or else we will not make it.

It is therefore important for us to talk ourselves out of this dependence and strategically wean ourselves on the new norm, which is plastic bag-free living.

What to do?

To succeed, it is crucial for us to develop associations with others who live free of plastic bags and those who have an understanding of alternative packaging that is environment-friendly so we can learn from them.

At the same time, we must be willing to invest in the weaning process both financially and psychologically.

It will cost us to make this transition - whether it is the extra shilling one will have to part with to buy a basket, or the financial shaking that the business community will have to experience to comply with this new regulation, or the many people who will lose their source of livelihood and have to start all over again looking for another job.

It will without a doubt cost us, but that is the price of this investment whose returns we will live to enjoy. Similarly, we must make the psychological effort by preparing our minds for this transition.

We must have strong psyches to pull through this one; even though we need to be realistic by giving ourselves a grace period to throw tantrums because we miss plastic bags so badly that we can hardly stand it.

Our drive must remain focused on the ultimate goal, which is the well-being of our environment, which in turn translates into our well-being and that of generations to come. This is the price we have to pay and whichever way we look at it, it is time to choose change at any cost!

Having this reality on the ground, the worst that can happen to us as a people is not the banning of plastic bags or even the price we have to pay for this transition; rather it is us remaining contained by this new rule rather than becoming empowered by the potential that is hidden in it.

If we become impaired, immobile and blind to the effect that we cannot see beyond this regulation, then that will be our downfall; the downfall of many businesses, individuals, and projects, and ultimately the downfall of our economy to some extent.

But if this regulation brings us together to awaken the potential that is hidden within us; if it reveals our creativity and brings our innovative and inventive side to light, then we will have succeeded in turning this mess into a message that we are a people who can leverage on our challenges and turn them around for our good.

Ms Omukoba is a Communications Strategist and Lecturer at Kenyatta University

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