Regular plastic bags remain for up to 100 years contributing the highest percentage to the world’s environmental degradation as plastic bags pollution affects land, waterways, oceans and human’s health. On realization of their negative impact, environmentalist around the world begun to lobby for countries to not only stop the usage of plastic bags but also their manufacture. Some nations have taken steps towards the actualization of these much needed change by charging consumers for plastic bags which has seen their usage reduce by 90% in countries such as Ireland.
Kenya has joined this environment champions band wagon by finally effecting the plastic bags ban this year. Many Kenyans thought that the ban would never see the light of day when the current environment minister issued the six months’ notice in March 2017.Kenyan manufacturers moved to court to oppose the ban on the grounds that it would lead to loss of employment for thousands of Kenyans and also major losses on their end. The courts however subscribed to the bigger picture of saving our planet from pollution and okay-ed the ban.
There was a hullabaloo in Kenya created by unpreparedness on the part of both the consumers and the retailers for the move from plastic bags to other alternative means of packaging. Packaging bags at the onset of the ban were rare and expensive. This created a market gap and a business opportunity for individuals or companies that would come up with the cheapest packaging bag to replace the plastic bags. Consumers have found themselves on crossroads and have had to go back to carrying reusable shopping bags with them as they go for shopping as supermarkets and merchandisers are currently charging as high Ksh. 25 and Ksh. 35 per bag. This means one could end up spending a lot of money on the bags which for low income earners could take up to 5% of their income.
Budding entrepreneurs need to take this opportunity and find a way of producing bags made from sisal and other recyclable material at a cheap cost. This will enable them to sell to consumers at a cheap more negligible price. Their profit margins could be realized from selling the bags in bulk.
Plastic bags are currently used to line bins in home, store food items in the refrigerator and plastic carrier bags for shopping. This is the niche that has been left void by the ban and if one is smart enough to find a climate friendly way to fill it they will reap major benefits by making money and becoming climate champions.
Items such as ‘Kiondos’ which are associated with our grandmothers in the village should now get our attention. Africans on independence were quick to leave behind their culture for the new European trends. Yet white people have gone on to appropriate our culture and patent our African designs and items like the ‘Kiondo’. It is time we young people saw the big business opportunity in this ban. The ‘Kiondo’ is currently retailing at premium prices of Ksh 1000 to Ksh.1500 equivalent to about 10 dollars making it cost intensive for most consumers. If one found a way to mass produce such items at a cheaper cost and in turn lower the products selling prices to make them affordable to the ‘common mwananchi’ they will not only create employment for themselves and other young Kenyans, they will also become climate champions by default.