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Kenya’s Forward Thinking Plastic Bag Policy ..

IMG_0063_2-150x150.jpg“Paper or plastic?” “Neither thank you, I will take my trusty canvas for my groceries”. Most of us are doing what we can to be as environmentally friendly in our own small part of the world. And we are sure most of you will join us in praising the effort of the Kenyan Government to ban all plastic shopping bags in Kenya. We also understand the concern of some vendors at many produce stalls in Kenya (Africa version of a farmers market) of how they can best offer their wares to clients. But canvas, sisal and baskets worked before, surely it will work again.

So What’s Banned?

This plastic ban is an incredible coup for the environment, wildlife, local Kenyans and tourists alike. Anyone who has seen endless vistas of trees draped in plastic bags throughout the developing world, will appreciate this. Included in the ban are the following items that travelers might carry: Duty free carrier bags, General shopping bags, Bin liners (sometimes used to protect luggage during rain) and Dry cleaning bags (commonly wrapped around clothing). Travelers arriving into Kenya via airports, sea ports or land borders will be required to leave any bags deemed to be on the banned list at the point of entry. Travelers will not be fined so long as they surrender any prohibited bags. The following options are suitable replacements: Paper bags, Durable “bag for life” bags, Bags made from cloth, woven grass or sisal. Rwanda has banned plastic bags for a while now and one of the comments you hear a lot, especially about Kigali, is how clean the city is. So clearly this idea is catchy and hopefully it will spread closer to home where double bagging at the grocery store is the name of the game.

How Will the Ban Affect Visitors to Kenya?

What does this mean for us as travelers to this beautiful country? Possibly not too much depending on how you pack. The fines and jail time set out as punishment for infractions are targeting manufacturers and importers of plastic bags, not your average tourist with their travel shampoos in a Ziploc bag. Luggage will be searched on entry and any kind of shopping bag (like Walmart or your local grocery store type bags) will be taken away so best not to put your sneakers in a bag like that. I understand keeping your shoes away from your clothes so if you don’t have a shoe bag – old pillow cases work perfectly. Ziploc bags for your toiletries? Well there is no definitive answer on this yet but if you are like us, the toiletries come back home (even if empty so that I can fill them for the next trip). So that little Ziploc is coming back home with me and should not be an issue – we will keep you updated if it is.

We Applaud You Kenya!

This ban has made us all rethink our own behavior at the grocery store (because no matter where we put our canvas bags we nearly ALWAYS forget them ). Even if we re-use those Target bags,  how awesome would it be if we don’t have these manufactured at all in acquiescence to our fragile environment. We will leave you with the applause we want to give the Kenyan High Court. Last week two plastic bag importers filed cases to drop the ban, however the High Court rejected these suits saying that protecting the environment was more important than the companies’ commercial interests. Applause! Applause!

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