The high court of Kenya ruled Monday that citizens who use plastic bags could be jailed for four years and face fines of $40,000, citing severe environmental consequences and health risks for animals as the reasoning for its decision.
The law specifically targets manufacturers, but police are allowed to punish individuals found in possession of plastic bags, according to the Washington Post.
— Mike Hudema (@MikeHudema) August 22, 2017
Kenya has huge problems with pollution, and the widespread use of plastic bags lines the streets with trash. Since they can take hundreds of years to decompose, the bags are severely affecting the local wildlife, as animals munch on the bags but cannot digest them. Approximately 100 million plastic bags are used every year, according to The United Nations Environmental Program.
“It is a toxin that we must get rid of,” said Judi Wakhungu, the country’s cabinet secretary for the environment, according to NPR. “It’s affecting our water. It’s affecting our livestock and, even worse, we are ingesting this as human beings.”
However, not all Kenyans are happy with the ban, as many claim that a halt on plastic bag production will greatly affect businesses and employment.
“[The ban] will even affect the women who sell vegetables in the market — how will their customers carry their shopping home?” Samuel Matonda, a spokesperson for the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, asked The Standard, adding that he believes that the law could affect 60,000 jobs.
The Kenyan government is now encouraging people to use reusable bags instead, according to The New York Times.
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