Traders fight plastic bags ban in Kenya

Kenya's Environment Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Importers and sellers of plastic bags in Kenya have sued to suspend a government ban on the use, manufacture and importation of polythene.

In a suit filed by two people on their behalf, the traders have sued Environment Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu and the Attorney-General.

Mr Fredrick Njenga and Mr Stepehen Mwangi claim the ban, issued through a legal notice earlier this year, did not comply with the law.

Through lawyer Antonny Ogesa, they argue that the six-month period given to importers, retailers and dealers of plastic bags is not sufficient for them to clear all their stock and fulfill their contractual obligations.

Economic losses

They claim that they were bound to suffer great economic losses since the regulation was effected without adequate consultation with stakeholders.

They want the court to temporarily suspend that regulation banning the use, manufacture and importation of all plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging.

Prof Wakhungu, in a Kenya Gazette notice dated February 28, banned two categories of plastic bags — carrier bags and flat bags.

She defines a carrier bag as one that is “constructed with handles, and with or without gussets” while a flat bag is one that is “constructed without handles, and with or without gussets”.

Achieved nothing

In tailoring, a gusset is defined as an extra piece of clothing sewn into another cloth to make it wider, stronger or more comfortable.

Previous efforts to abolish the use of plastic bags have failed, and it remains to be seen if the latest ban will bear fruit.

In January 2011, the National Environmental Management Agency (Nema) declared a ban on plastic bags below 0.6 millimetres in thickness, but the prohibition achieved nothing.

In 2007, the government banned plastic bags below 0.3 millimetres in thickness, and order that also failed.

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