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  • Sammy Melnick

Two Years Ago, Kenya Set The World’s Strictest Bank on Plastic Bags

Updated: Sep 2, 2020

Kenya is considered to have the strictest penalties in the world, making manufacturing, importing or selling single-use carriers punishable by a prison sentence of up to four years or fines up to $40,000. Anyone caught using them also faces a fine, which so far has been between $300 and $1,500, and a possible prison sentence of up to a year.

But there are some exceptions to the law: certain kinds of single-use plastic bags are still allowed for garbage bin liners, medical waste, construction and for packaging foods like bread, as well as the use of cling film (like Saran wrap).

Two years on, as the country prepares to roll out new limits on more single-use plastic items ― banning plastics from parks and beaches effective June 2020 ― the success of Kenya’s bag ban remains mixed. 

Officials, activists and local vendors are among those who say the law is responsible for cleaner streets and there is some evidence that plastic bag use has been drastically reduced. But, even with the harsh penalties, plastic bag pollution hasn’t been completely eliminated in Kenya, and plastic bags ― both legal and illegal ― continue to make their way onto the country’s streets.

And one of the biggest questions remains: How do you create a bag ban that works?

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