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 ‘commonmwananchi’ they will not only create employment for themselves and other young Kenyans, they will also become climate champions by default.
Kereita Forest is a historical landmark for Kenya. People in this area gave their lives in exchange for our independence as a country. The British in March 1953 killed approximately 5000 people at Lari as a retaliation to the Mau Mau attack on about a hundred European collaborators during the Lari massacre. This area is home to the mass grave where the 5000 people killed by the British were buried making it instrumental to our history.
It was thus an honor this weekend when I had the opportunity to join a group of people in planting 2000 trees to help in the continued conservation of the Kereita Forest which forms part of the larger Aberdares forest. It’s a major water catchment area for Kenya which reinforces the importance of us continuously taking care of its well being. Fertile areas such as Kereita are susceptible to deforestation and human encroachment that is why organizations such as Kijabe Environmental Volunteer’s efforts to aid in the conservation of this forest are very much appreciated.
The group is made up of young people who give their time and skills to the maintenance of the forest. This is selfless on their part and it goes to show that there are young people dedicated and ready to work towards the aversion of climate change. The Kijabe Environment Volunteers have also introduced activities such as Zip Lining meant to attract visitors to the forest. Funds collected from the activities are used in conservation of the forest.
The forest also serves as a tourist attraction site as it has an array of wild animals including elephants, monkeys and various bird species. There are also hiking trails for persons who love to explore nature. The biggest attraction site here is the Kereita Waterfall on Gatamaiyu River and an adjacent caves that house a bat colonies, the caves are also said to have acted as hide outs for the Mau Mau .Make a date and visit Kereita Forest it will be worthwhile.
Dandora one of Nairobi’s largest dumping sites tells the story of the plastic bags menace in Kenya vividly, about 5O% of the trash in this site is plastic bags. This could however Change as the ministry for environment has gazetted a law that states that government will no longer allow the use of plastic bags in the country in the next six months .The reasons cited is that plastic bags are a threat to our environment and are contributors to environmental degradation.
The hurdles in this scenario however are the thousands of jobs that will be lost due to this directive with manufacturers already counting their losses and trying to get the government to change its directive due to the losses it will cost the economy.
By removing plastic bags from the picture a void is created and it has to be filled. What will the common mwananchi carry her groceries in? Many will be quick to answer paper bags or tote bags. Scientist are however of the opinion that paper bags have a bigger negative impact on climate change than plastic bags .Paper bags have a higher carbon imprint .They require a lot of energy during production and thus a lot of greenhouse gases are emitted causing pollution.
Some of The reasons why Kenyans support the governments directive on phasing out of the plastic bags could include.
Plastic bags have been the thorn in their flesh, the litter on Kenyan streets is mostly plastic bags.
Drainage systems in major towns and estates have been rendered useless due to plastic bags getting stuck in them and causing blockage.
Plastic bags have infringed on our oceans leading to their contamination, additionally fish, and marine mammals in general ingest them. These plastic bags poison or choke the fish leading to their death.
Plastic by itself is a toxin which is not good for a person’s health. People ingest toxins by consuming contaminated sea mammals. This leads to health complications.
The die seems to have already been cast on this one but things are never done until they are done .We are counting down six months to see how the dust settles on this plastic bags ban. Will the ministry of environment win or will plastic bags manufacturers carry the day?
PS; Kindly leave your comments on why you support or do not support the use of plastic bags.
Time is the most precious commodity not even gold and diamond can compare to time .Its thus flattering when a group of young people decide to put every other business they have behind them and be part of a 10Km walk in Karura Forest to create awareness on the need for conservation of forests.
The world is celebrating the global goals week and goal 13 on climate action is one of the seventeen sustainable development goals and one of the most important ones .This is because if we don’t conserve our planet right now we will have everything else but no future. A poorly conserved planet means we will slowly succumb to illnesses and disease.
The Green walk team has taken the initiative to stand with Karura forest a forest found near Nairobi the capital city of Kenya .Due its proximity to the city centre it’s been prone to grabbing by rich business moguls whose aim is to turn the forest area into an industry area where they build malls and hotels to make them more money to the detriment of our health. Such development will leave the rest of us prone to problems that arise due to climate change. deforestation and encroachment of riparian reserves have nothing but negative effects such as destruction of the ozone layer and increase in carbon emissions that we cannot allow .The general public does not understand the dangers of deforestation and they be interested in reaping from the short term benefits of job creation that will arise from commercializing Karura forest but we cannot let this happen. That is why efforts of young people such as The Green Walk Team cannot go unnoticed and bodies in government including the Ministry of environment should support and encourage more young people to join this initiatives bent on conservation of currently forested land and afforestation.
The plan of The Green Walk team is to compliment the environmental activities done by other stakeholders within the forest and to also better the lives of the people living around Karura Forest. Their goal of providing clean water and sanitation to communities in Nairobi is a noble one and is in line with Sustainable goal 6 on provision of clean water and Sanitation to all. Youth is fleeting but we must say that this young people are putting theirs to a good use. Care to be a green walker? Visit their website http://www.thegreenwalk.org/