Kenya Bans Plastic Bags, Too!

Wow, Kenya! The East African country joins at least 8 other African nations in banning plastic bags, which litter the streets and harm wildlife.

Kenya has banned the manufacture, import and distribution of all plastic bags for commercial & household use. Of course the manufacturers are up in arms about this, saying first that Kenya’s plastics industry needs more than the given six months to dismantle its bag production businesses (a fair argument, perhaps).

garbage in New York

Unsorted garbage litters New York streets

A Plastic Problem or a Waste Management Problem?

The plastic manufacturers in Kenya also say it’s more of a waste disposal problem than a problem with the manufacture and use of plastics. This is short-sighted: The litter issue could be greatly improved, but a habit of churning limited petroleum resources into single-use bags into landfills will never be sustainable in the long term.

A short stroll down a street in New York City makes this clear. The garbage is organized. It’s in barrels and bags. But it’s massive and everywhere, and there is no “away” to which we can sustainably send it. Burying or burning natural resources is not sustainable.

And that’s why even places like California are banning plastic. Even if you can have pretty high recycling rates and pretty low rates of littering and still have serious problems with plastic. I wrote about California’s ballot initiative on the topic back in November, and I’m happy to report that it did pass. Massachusetts might be next, but its bill seems to be languishing in committee.

Kenya, You Too Will be Bag-Happy Like Seattle!

We had some family visiting from the East Coast recently. After doing a few shopping trips without a reusable bag, one of our guests asked if we had a canvas bag to lend her. “I feel very un-Seattle-like,” she said. 

We love the reusable bag culture that has been growing here. Manufacturers can rest assured that there will still be a need for bags, but just more sustainable ones that won’t be dumped on the side of the road at a rate of 10 per day per person. Friendly credit unions like BECU will show up at farmer’s markets with cute promo bags that collapse into their own attached stuff sacks. Or maybe the traditional woven shopping basket — made of biodegradable grasses or reeds — will prevail. Those are sold by African vendors at Seattle markets, too!


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