Kenya is set to ban plastic bottles in protected areas starting June 5 as the east African nation intensifies efforts to conserve national parks and game reserves, an official said on Wednesday.
Najib Balala, Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife said the government is in consultation with relevant stakeholders to ensure successful enforcement of the ban in plastic bottles in national parks, forests, beaches and conservation parks.
“Consultations with stakeholders have intensified to pave way for a total ban on plastic bottles within our wildlife sanctuaries and other biodiversity hotspots,” Balala told reporters in Nairobi.
He said that manufacturers have rallied behind efforts to phase out the use of plastic bottles inside national parks amid risk to the health of iconic wildlife species.
A policy brief from Kenya’s Ministry of Environment indicates that one-time use of plastic bottles has constituted the biggest challenge to solid waste management in the country.
Plastic bottles that have been haphazardly discarded have found their way into drainage systems, hence posing a grave threat to human health.
The latest announcement comes three years after the country outlawed the use and manufacture of environmentally harmful plastic bags.
In the ban implemented in August 2017, a person found in possession of these bags risked a jail term of up to one year or a fine of 4 million shillings (40,000 U.S. dollars). Since then, supermarkets have shifted to environmentally friendly alternatives.
Manufacturers had started to produce polypropylene which is less harmful to the environment. However, the bags were found to be difficult to recycle resulting in a ban in 2019.
The ban on plastic bags has not been fully achieved as there are still plastic bags in circulation among small business traders in Nairobi and other major cities.
“I am using these bags because they are cheap and my customers do not want their fruits wrapped in the recommended brown bags,” said Njeri Wairimu, a fruit vendor.
According to the National Environment Management Agency (NEMA), polythene bags that are still in the market originate come from neighboring countries, which are yet to outlaw their use as packaging material.
Julie Gashure, a food vendor hailed the decision by the government to ban the use of plastic bottles in protected areas saying pollution of vital ecosystems like waterways and forests will be reduced.