Kenya has joined over 40 other countries in banning single-use plastic bags. Citizens found producing, selling or using plastic bags will face fines of $40,000 or imprisonment for up to four years. This is the toughest law in the world related to a plastic bag ban.
Approximately 24 million plastic bags are used in Kenya each month, reports The Guardian. Many of these bags are consumed by livestock, increasing the risk of plastic contamination. Thousands more end up in the ocean, where they strangle or suffocate sea life. Habib El-Hab, a marine litter expert from Kenya’s UN environment program, says it takes 500-1000 years for plastic bags to break down. “If we continue like this, by 2050 we will have more plastic in the ocean than fish,” he states.
Despite the positive effects the ban will have on the environment, some manufacturers are displeased with the law. “The knock-on effects will be very severe,” says spokesman for the Kenya Association of Manufacturers Samuel Matonda. The organisation estimates that over 60,000 jobs could be lost.
Kenya is not the first African country to ban plastic bags, with several others, including Cameroon, Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia adopting the law previously.