BIG QUESTION: COULD IT BE THE BATTLE BETWEEN ENVIRONMENTALIST AND ECONOMIST?
Thousands of plastic factories in Kenya and East Africa in general with un-exceptional of Rwanda are producing tons of plastic bags which are very popularly used by the people for shopping purposes because of its ease, cheapness, and convenience of use but their very hazardous negative impact is never highlighted or, at the very least, openly discussed in a more serious tone.
Plastic bags are created using fossil fuels and also require vast amounts of water and energy to have them manufactured and shipped. The production of plastic bags requires the use of billions of pounds of fossil fuels as well as billions of gallons of fresh water. The manufacturing process results in billions of pounds of solid waste and millions of tons of CO2 every year.
For a long period, this has been the argument from some citizen; plastic bags can decompose in the soil thus should not be ban from manufacturing, usage, and importation.
Kennedy Ochieng’ an industrial worker in one of the plastic bags manufacturing companies in Kenya complains of losing a job when the government of Kenya will carry out the gazette notice on plastic bag ban which will effectively start on 28/8/2017.
There has also been complained by manufacturing industries that most of the companies will have no alternative but to close down and do you know what that means to over 60,000 Kenyan working in this industries? They will be rendered jobless. It’s not only factories that will be affected but also the informal sector.
Local residents have a major concern especially those who earn their livelihood from sorting out the biodegradable and non-bio degradable and end up selling the already used plastic materials to the recycling industries in Kenya and earn up to Kshs.600.
Some of those earning a living from sorting theses recyclable material such as plastic bags in different dumping sites in major cities in Kenya (Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, Kisumu, and Eldoret) having a concern that is the way they have earned income to help them pay bills and school fees for their children. With this, an economist would question, do the government have an alternative job solution to those going to be rendered jobless and industries that are going to be shut down given the fact that this sector now generates an estimate of about 5.2 billion shillings annually in form of tax revenue to the government.
But on going back to the other side of the coin where an environmentalist like hydrologist could argue in this way:
Plastic bags can have various negative impacts on the environment. In addition to the use of natural resources and waste from plastic bag production, plastic bags can increase the risk of flooding.
Because they never break down completely, plastic bags can clog storm drains and other areas which can eventually cause severe flooding (a good example is in estates in Nairobi) and this is because the plastic bags have blocked some of the drainage systems thus during the heavy storm some parts of the city gets flooded.
Plastic products are also causing serious issues in the world’s oceans, where pieces of plastic actually outnumber the amount of plankton in the water.
The plastic pieces can lead to avian and marine life choking, consuming partly broken down pieces of plastic, and being strangled by discarded shopping bags and other items.