Kenya may be pushed to rescind tough plastic ban

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020 00:00 |
A section of River Ndarugu choked with plastic bottles that flow into Lake Nakuru National Park, raising concern over the plight of the park’s wild and marine life. The Ministry of Environment says over 50 million plastic bottles are disposed off annually into the environment. Photo/PD/ROY LUMBE

Kenya may be forced to rescind its ban on single use plastic bags after the American Chemistry Council (ACC) recommended that the country prohibit imposition of domestic limits on production or consumption of chemicals and plastic.

The ACC, giving recommendations to the US International Commission on the ongoing US-Kenya Trade Agreement, noted that the prohibition should extend to restrictions on cross-boundary trade of materials and feedstocks.

“We anticipate that Kenya could serve in the future as a hub for supplying US-made chemicals and plastics to other markets in Africa through this trade agreement,” Ed Brzytwa, American Chemistry Council Director for International Trade said in a letter to the Commission on June 10.

 “Kenya is growing its ground transportation network of railways and roads, has a port that meets international standards in Mombasa on the Indian Ocean, and boasts three international airports,” Brzytwa added.

Chemical trade

 He added that Kenya’s increasing logistics capacity could support an expansion of chemical trade not just between the US and Kenya, but also throughout East Africa and the continent.

 Brzytwa said ACC represents a diverse set of companies engaged in the business of chemistry, most oil companies an innovative, Sh5.5 trillion enterprise.

 Early this year, US President Donald Trump met President Uhuru Kenyatta at the White House and announced the USA plans to initiate trade agreement negotiations with the Republic of Kenya.

 This was the second meeting with Trump once before in August 2018, when as the White House said, “the two leaders established the United States-Kenya Bilateral Strategic Dialogue.”

On August 27, 2017, Kenya imposed one of the strictest ban on single use plastic bags as they became ‘king of trash’ and a menace to the environment.

 The ban stipulates that anyone found manufacturing; importing or selling a plastic carrier bag could be fined up to Sh4 million or faces a prison sentence of up to four years. Using the banned bags carries a fine of more than Sh50,000 or a jail term of up to a year.

 Progress on the use of plastic bags have been recorded though traders across the country continue to use them illegally where most of the product comes from Uganda and other East Africa Countries yet to impose the ban.

Rise in plastic waste

 The recommendation by ACC puts Kenya on the spotlight after a recent Interpol  report showed a sharp rise in plastic waste crime globally.

 The report, entitled Interpol’s strategic analysis on emerging criminal trends in the global plastic waste market since January 2018, indicates that there has been a considerable increase in illegal waste shipments, primarily rerouted to South-East Asia and Africa via multiple transit countries.

 Due to PET plastic bottles menace, President Kenyatta issued a directive last year’s World Environment Day, to ban the use of single use plastics in protected areas.

The ban came into effect on June 5 in National Parks, beaches, forests and conservation areas, which means visitors will no longer be able to carry plastic water bottles, cups, disposable plates, cutlery, or straws into protected areas.

 According to the ACC, chemicals comprise about 17 percent of all goods exported to Kenya with more than 80 percent of chemicals exported to Kenya are resins: polyvinyl carbonate and high density polyethylene (HDPE).

 Total chemicals trade between the U.S. and Kenya was Sh 7.7 billion in 2019.

 “Duty-free trade between the U.S. and Kenya will reduce costs for chemical manufacturers and promote innovation, job creation, and competitiveness -- not only between both parties, but also more broadly in the EAC and throughout the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA),” Brzytwa added.

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