To an ordinary shopper, receiving milk, tomatoes, cut kales packed in polythene paper does not raise eyebrows unlike when the products are given without packaging.
This is the norm that shoppers have been accustomed to. And to the vendor, this is the only way to maintain hygiene, to attract customers to shop at their stalls.
However, little do they know how they will be greatly impacted if the government executes the ban of all plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging come September 2017.
This will be the third time that the government will be trying to ban plastic bags after attempting to do that in 2007 and 2011.
The ban on use of plastic bags in 2007 and 2011 mainly focused on reducing the thickness of the bags to 30 microns and 60 microns.
According to NEMA, “The Ban does not apply to plastics used in primary industrial packaging in accordance with approved packaging standards.”
Vendors have already expressed concern over the Government’s move to ban the manufacture and use of thin plastics in the country.
Musa Kamau who sells assorted thin plastic carriers in Muthurwa Market said the ban means he will have to look for an alternative of making money which cannot be done within a short period of time as it is now.
Kariuki Antony who owns a plastic carrier shop in Kinoo, Kimabu County pleads with the government to consider reversing the ban saying the move will have a negative impact on his family financially.
The ban, according to Environment Secretary Prof. Judi Wakhungu, is among other things, prohibiting the manufacturing and importation of plastic carrier bags.
“It is a tough decision. It’s a lonely decision,” she says in an interview done by Business Daily.
What is the impact analysis of the ban?
Kenya’s informal sector acts as an important shock pillar for Kenya’s economy gripped by a fairly lengthy period of sluggish jobs and income growth.
It employs a significant amount of the people who are supporting the majority of the households in the country their purchasing activities of the various household consumables and capital goods significantly contribute to the Value-Added Tax.
The sector contributes in excess of 35 percent to the Gross Domestic Product and employs close to 80 percent of the workforce.
It includes home businesses, domestic workers, street vendors, small-scale artisans, car repairs, bakeries, and livestock traders and the sector makes a huge contribution to the economy.
Surprisingly, a majority do not know how the ban will heavily impact on them.
For instance, on average, 12 percent of Kenyan households’ shop in supermarkets and 88 percent of them shop in small shops, kiosks, from vendors and hawkers who mainly use polythene to package their food products.
From the kales seller, butcher, ground nuts seller, milk seller form the bulk of the 88 percent. What is the alternative for them?
For NEMA, sellers will have to use plastic bags with ‘approved packaging standards’, but this only creates inconsistency. It will benefit large businesses only disenfranchising the informal business which relay heavily on the plastic bags to package.
“Retailers are required to clear stocks within the grace period (August 28). Furthermore, all retailers shall declare all the remaining stocks by the due date to the National Environment Management Authority for necessary action,” says NEMA.
For the traders, their only hope is the report that was tabled in the National Assembly on Tuesday by the Departmental Committee on Environment and Natural Resources on the petition by the Kenya Association of Manufacturers on the ban, on the use of manufacture and importation of plastic bags.
In the petition, “The Committee observed that the Gazette Notice No. 2356 of 2017 on the ban, use, manufacture, and importation of plastic bags did not comply with the Statutory Instruments Act, 2013.”
Further, “The National Treasury should ring-fence the revenue generated from the excise duty levied on the plastic bag manufacturers. These monies should be specifically applied to implement projects and programs related to plastic waste control and management.”
Most vendors, on the other hand, do not support anything that is harmful to the environment as they have said in the announcement but there should be a substitute to enable them to continue with their petty trade and sell food in a hygienic condition.
Besides seeking an alternative, others request for a reasonable period of notice longer than what they have given to enable them to adjust gradually.