Kenya has banned the manufacture and import of all plastic bags used for commercial and household packing.
Environment Minister Judi W. Wakhungu gave the order published in a gazette notice dated February 28th and released to the public last week. The new measures will take effect six months from the date of the notice.
It joins fellow African states Cameroon, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Mauritania and Malawi that have also adopted such bans.
The United Nations Environmental Program said in a statement that some 100 million plastic bags are handed out every year in Kenya by supermarkets alone, calling plastic bags the top challenge for urban waste disposal in Kenya.
Poor communities are the worst affected due to the limited access to waste disposal systems.
UNEP said the bags have long been identified as a major cause of environmental damage and health problems, killing birds, fish and other animals that mistake them for food. They also damage agricultural land, pollute tourist sites and provide breeding grounds for the mosquitoes that carry malaria and dengue fever.
“Kenya is taking decisive action to remove an ugly stain on its outstanding natural beauty,” said Erik Solheim, the U.N. program’s executive director.