Did you know that about 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide annually? That comes to one million bags every minute!
Plastic bags look ugly yet it can take up to 100 million barrels of crude oil just to make the annual worldwide bags. They choke the animals when they clog water sources and they can take up to 1,000 years to decompose.
Incidentally it was the Swedish engineer Sten Gustaf Thulin who invented the plastic bag in the 1960s. It reached the US through its supermarket chains in the 1970s and it was San Francisco who was the first to ban the bags in 2012. They also came up with the Checkout Bag Ordinance, where customers were charge 10 cents for their compostable plastic bags, paper bags and reusable check out bags that have been designed to last 125 uses and are washable.
Then what about Paper bags? Are they your better option? Unfortunately a paper-bag manufacturer will use 20 times as much water as plastic and requires more energy to be recycled and when they degrade they will release methane. Not to mention the millions of trees it will take to make them.
Jute bags need a lot of water too, and we are already facing severe water shortages worldwide.
Kenya joined other African nations including Rwanda, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Mauritania, Cameroon, Mali and Guinea-Bissau to ban plastic bags as per the gazette notice on 28th February 2017. The ban starts 6 months from notice period. According to the United Nations Environmental Program, Kenyans uses about 100 million plastic bags annually, while 8 million tons of plastic leaks into the ocean every year.
In Kenyan style there was bill introduced to the County Assembly in July 2016 that was sponsored by Umoja MCA Njoroge Maina under the Nairobi City County Plastic Control Bill and Kayole South MCA Elizabeth Imanyala claimed to be the actual author of the bill.
The fate is now sealed. Environment Minister Judi Wakhungu says there is no turning back starting September and fines include customers being jailed for up to 12 months or pay 3 million shillings. In 2007 an attempt to clean up the country and ban the bags flopped.
The Kenyan manufacturers however have reported that over 60,000 jobs directly and over 400,000 indirectly will be lost with this ban. The dilemma prevails. This dreadful yet useful material poisons the environment worldwide and we are not the only country to face this challenge.
Let’s talk about Kenya, since 2007 the attempts to ban these bags have failed. Well, there has been plenty of time since to come up with innovative solutions or after much research now at our finger tips to see what else can be done. The manufacturers should be playing a bigger role in changing the environment than profiting from it. They need to drive the change and not wait for the Government to come and close shop. Perhaps they tried too and since there is not much evidence on what they could have tried, there is only speculation.
What then can the plastic bags be replaced with?
This means a lifestyle change. That’s right, how we consume, what we consume and where we consume will define the use of materials. Remember the milkman who brings fresh milk to your house, he pours it from his jerry can to yours? How about that happens here too? Imagine if you did not have to go shopping and ordered it online and they deliver from their bag to yours? Alright, so the malls will have no more supermarkets to sell their spaces too. Let’s consider what can be done inside. Simple, the trolley which holds the shopping items remains with you till your car, where in the boot you have a box to fix the materials and then offload from trolley to box to home. Not a single bag needs to be used.
Thus, recycle the use of the trolley and not fill it up with the bags.
To carry your lunch boxes, extra items or just about anything try and see what else can you use. Just the way the school kids have a permanent lunch bag, even adults should adopt them and not misuse the plastic bags.
Human beings are at a major crux, should they be nature friendly and live like yogis or be materialistic and fulfill their objects desires? One is long term thinking and investment, the other is way shorter and more expensive. Feel free to choose the one that works best for you, we still have that say.