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Home / Health & Science

The beef with plastics on your dinner tables

HEALTH & SCIENCEBy MACTILDA MBENYWE | Mon,Aug 09 2021 10:00:00 EAT
By MACTILDA MBENYWE | Mon,Aug 09 2021 10:00:00 EAT

 

Cows feed on garbage.

Some livestock still had plastics in their gut after the ban on plastics took effect in the country in August 28, 2017, a study by the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) shows.

The draft follow-up report on the prevalence of plastic bags in the rumen of slaughtered livestock at Kenya Meat Commission, Dagoreti and Kiserian abattoirs however noted that the plastics in the rumens had declined.

“This is the first positive evidence of the ban on the livestock industry in Kenya demonstrating the benefit of the ban on pastoralists. Given the positive impact of the ban on the livestock, the study recommends for continued investment to sustain the ban,” the study said.  

The study involved visits to Dagoreti, Kiserian and KMC abattoirs by NEMA scientists and with the aid of the abattoirs personnel inspecting all slaughtered animals’ rumens for plastic bags using the same approach used during the base-line survey of August, 2017. 

Dagoreti abattoir is in Kiambu County, Kiserian in Kajiado and KMC in Machakos. Data was collected for five days for each abattoir and included total number of animals slaughtered each day and number with plastic bags in rumen.     

A total of 4,061 livestock were sampled with majority coming from Dagoreti abattoir (2,709) followed by KMC (953) and the rest from Kiserian (508).

KMC presented the greatest prevalence, followed by Kiserian abattoirs while Dagoreti recorded the least prevalence.

In Dagoreti, 2.14 percent of animals slaughtered were found with plastics in rumen, in Kiserian (12.99 percent) and KMC (24.34).

The comparison of prevalance at baseline (before the ban) and about six months after the ban shows a decline of prevalence of plastic bags in animals rumen after the ban from animals slaughtered at Dagoreti and Kenya Meat Commission. However, at Kiserian a higher prevalance of plastics in slaughtered animals was reported in the study of 2018 (after the ban) compared to baseline study before the ban.

The greatest decline was recorded on data from livestock slaughtered at KMC which presented a decline from 30.42 percent to 24.34 percent.

Plastic bags ingestion affect the quality of livestock as those heavily infested with plastics present weak and sickly like conditions. When plastics pile in livestock rumens, they could stay there for long and occupy space for food denying the affected animal opportunity for acquiring sufficient nutrients for body building.

Field observations on sections of rumens where the plastics were held also showed cases where the plastics formed hard features that were injured the rumen lining. The injuries present themselves as sores and could serve as source of bacterial infections creating ill health in addition to deliberating stomach aches, subsequently affecting the quality of the animals. 

Further study was also recommended on the chemical constituents in rumen of livestock infested with plastics and the economic loss in the livestock industry associated with decline of animal products with plastics in rumen. 

The study recommends for efforts to sustain ban and consideration for innovating management strategies of other plastics bags particularly those exempted used for primary packaging for allowing elimination of plastics in animals’ rumens and in the environment for a clean and heathy environment.

Prior to the ban, an estimated one million plastic bags were given to customers by supermarkets in Nairobi alone. Further, a similar high number of plastic bags were estimated to be given out by the fast growing informal business sector. In January, 2005 it was reported that an estimated 8 million plastic bags were given out by supermarkets monthly and two times as many from the informal sector. In 2010, it was estimated that over 24 million plastic bags were used in Kenya monthly and half of this end up in municipal solid waste.

The mass production and use of these plastics coupled with the inefficient waste management led to major pollution of environment by plastic bags. Most environments particularly at urban and peri-urban environments received heavy pollution with plastic bags. 

Reports from Sekenani, Maasai Mara for instance indicated that of the nearly 40 percent of cattle and goats that had died during the drought, all had ingested significant numbers of plastic bags, sufficient to contribute to their premature deaths.

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