Kenya bans plastic bags, offenders face up to 4 years prison

Kenya has introduced the world’s toughest ban on plastic bags as it steps up the fight against pollution. Offenders could face fines of up to $38,000 or four years in jail.

It’s being touted the world’s toughest plastic bag ban, and with good reason, too. As of Monday, Kenyans found guilt of producing, selling, importing or even using plastic bans will risk up to four years in prison or fines of up to $38,000.

As AFP reported, the ban was first announced in February, but it was suspended for six months to give Kenyan consumers and shopkeepers time to adjust to the new rules. It also had to overcome a High Court challenge brought by importers who claimed that jobs will be lost and livelihoods threatened.

Erik Solheim, the head of the UN’s environment agency (UNEP), called the ban “a huge, important step” to ending plastic pollution. His agency estimates that Kenyan supermarkets hand out some 100 million plastic bags each year.

More than 40 countries have panned, partly banned or taxed single use bags, reported the Guardian. But Kenya’s bag goes farthest as it allows police to go after anyone even carrying a plastic bag.

Discarded plastic bags are a massive problem in Kenya – scattered on the sides of roads or hanging by trees, they are known for blocking drains or being ingested by animals, including livestock. In slaughterhouses in Nairobi, some cows destined for human consumption had 20 bags removed from their stomachs, according to the Guardian.

But the damage is even worse at sea where bags strangle turtles, suffocate seabirds, and fill the stomachs of fish, dolphins and whales, starving them to death.

Image credit: John McGarvey via Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

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