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Toxic plastic use may be reduced with awareness

A man rummages through a heap of trash comprising of used papers, plastic bottles and metals along the banks of river Nairobi near Majengo slums in Nairobi on May 17, 2022. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Plastics are proving to be extremely dangerous to the environment all over the world.

Therefore, there has been a demand to limit its use and ban various types of plastics.

Similar demands have been made in Kenya, and the government has issued strict instructions from time to time.

But there has always been a lack of rigour in enforcing these directives. That is why, despite millions of efforts, there has been no success in reducing the use of plastics.

Kenya also barred all single-use plastics such as water bottles and straws from its national parks, beaches, forests and other protected areas.

Because of the pandemic, we all have witnessed with our own eyes what happens when we destroy the earth; that is, we eliminate the systems that support human life.

Plastic bottles, bottle caps, food wrappers, bags, straws and lids are all disposable and then thrown away. Kenya is fighting the curse of plastic pollution, which suffocates sea turtles, cattle and birds and destroys the landscape.

More than 20 states and Union Territories have similar rules on banned plastics. Usage continues unabated.

If the use of banned plastics is not declining, it simply means that the attitude of the concerned departments towards their production, sale and use is extremely irresponsible and negligent.

It is often seen that due to our small and big negligence and shortcomings of waste management systems, polythene or other plastic waste is filled in the drains, which clogs the drains, drainage and sewerage system.

This waste is now obstructing the flow of rivers, which now plays a significant role in creating flood-like conditions in places with a little more rainfall.

Like many countries, Kenya has long struggled with plastic waste, which is scattered along the coast of the Indian Ocean and often appears in lakes.

In Mombasa, the country's second-largest city with about 2 million inhabitants, 3.7 kg of plastic per person permeates into water bodies every year.

Plastics were the cause of the catastrophic floods in Bangladesh in 1988 and 1998, as plastics accumulated in drains or gutters, causing drains to clog up and so on.

The use of plastic bags in Ireland has been taxed at 90 per cent, which has led to a drastic reduction in their use. In Australia, where the use of these bags has dropped by 90 per cent following a government appeal, Rwanda, a country on the African continent, is proposing fines for making, buying and using plastic bags.

France launched a campaign to ban plastics in 2002, and in 2010 it was fully implemented across the country.

Non-recyclable plastics are banned in New York City. China, Malaysia, Vietnam, Canada, Thailand, Italy and other countries have imposed various restrictions on importing plastic waste. China has been the world's largest importer of plastic waste, but it also recently banned importing 24 categories of solid waste.

Similar stringent measures need to be taken in Kenya in a roundabout way to ban plastics totally. However, due to some shortcomings in these rules, the import of plastic waste into the country is still being exempted and taking advantage of this, empty plastic bottles are being imported in the form of acceptable waste.

Worryingly, about half of the plastic waste that comes out every day is either found in rivers through drains or lying untreated on a piece of land, polluting the earth and air.

Pollution Control Boards are functioning in all the states and Union Territories across the country, but to know how serious they are about their work, it will be necessary for the Kenya government to get a little harder on its citizens to meet the goal of 2030.

Also, the Kenya government need to raise awareness to reduce the use of plastics by posting banners, TV and newspaper advertisements- billboards on the freeways, and malls, so any Kenyan after using the plastic bottle -dumping anywhere they want, see these ads and avoid throwing them, as well as dump them wherever they belong too.

Surjit Singh Flora is a veteran journalist and freelance writer based in Canada.