The National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) has launched a crackdown on plastic bags in Kwale County and arrested five suppliers.
Ali Mwanzei, NEMA Deputy Director in charge of field operations told journalists in Kwale town that the authority has launched a renewed crackdown targeting traders importing the bags into the country.
He said the five people arrested would be presented in court today for being in possession of plastic bags that were completely banned since 2017 noting that plastic bags were bad for the economy and the environment as they block drainage systems.
He said plastics are distributed by smugglers along the border counties despite the restrictions in place.
The government banned the use, manufacture and importation of all plastic bags that are non-degradable for commercial and household packaging in August 2017 to save the environment.
People caught manufacturing or using plastic bags face up to four years in jail, or a fine of up to Sh4.4 million or face similar charges.
Mwanzei said unscrupulous cross border traders have found a loophole of importing the bags into the country using undesignated and unregulated entry points.
He said NEMA has kicked off a new wave of surveillance especially in border areas to mop out plastic bags and apprehend individuals using, manufacturing and importing the banned bags from neighbouring countries.
“NEMA has identified the coastal county of Kwale as hotspots for plastic bag usage due to its proximity to Tanzania where traders were using porous borders to bring in the commodity,” he said.
He added that shopping bag litter is generally an eyesore and the ban is aimed at combating the environmental problems caused by plastic bags.
The NEMA official noted the nationwide ban on plastic is a ‘well thought out environmental measure’ that seeks to end once and for all the litter problem in the country.
“The ban is meant to reduce overall pollution and specifically the conspicuous plastic pollution in the country and should be respected by all and sundry,” he said noting that plastic bags were polluting the beautiful creeks and beaches along the coastline.
Mwanzei observed that it is high time shoppers and traders embraced alternative environment friendly and recyclable materials instead of plastic bags.
He was accompanied by Kwale County Director of Environment Godfrey Wafula and chief inspector of police Jackson Mwangi in charge of the NEMA police unit.
By Melinda Kirwa and Hussein Abdullahi