Kenyans producing, selling or even using plastic bags will risk imprisonment of up to four years or fines of $40,000 from Monday (August 28), as the world's toughest law aimed at reducing plastic pollution came into effect.
The East African nation joins more than 40 other countries that have banned, partly banned or taxed single use plastic bags, including China, France, Rwanda, and Italy.
Many bags drift into the ocean, strangling turtles, suffocating seabirds and filling the stomachs of dolphins and whales with waste until they die of starvation.
"This is something we didn't get like 10 years ago but now it is almost on a daily basis," said county vet Mbuthi Kinyanjui as he watched men in bloodied white uniforms scoop sodden plastic bags from the stomachs of cow carcasses.
Kenya's law allows police to go after anyone even carrying a plastic bag. But Judy Wakhungu, Kenya's environment minister, said enforcement would initially be directed at manufacturers and suppliers. "Ordinary wananchi will not be harmed," she told Reuters, using a Kiswahili word for "common man".
Explaining the reasons for the ban, she said elements from the bags enter water and when livestock eat the bags, microplastics are passed onto humans when they eat the animals.
Big Kenyan supermarket chains like France's Carrefour and Nakumatt have already started offering customers cloth bags as alternatives.
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