Plastics sector research (sustainable solutions) - Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM)

Plastics have become the most prevalent material of the modern economy, mainly because of its unrivalled functional properties at a low cost. As the use of plastics has increased over the last twenty years across the globe, the speed of recycling plastic waste has not grown at the same rate. 

Globally, unrecycled plastic waste has ended up in the ocean with estimates of between 5.3 million and 14 million tonnes of plastics annually found in coastal regions. As a result, governments across the globe have signed up to the United Nations Clean Seas Campaign with Kenya being one of the signatories to the campaign. 

In 2017, the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MoEN&R) banned the use of plastic bags. Later, the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) threatened to extend the ban to plastic bottles. However, the MoEN&R are on the record stating that they are encouraging manufacturers to develop plans to recycle

A total ban on the use of plastic bottles would not only adversely affect the 100 firms in the manufacturing sector at KAM, but also about 90% of all locally manufactured products including dairy, sugar, agriculture, horticulture, hospitality, health, pharmaceutical industries, retail outlets and consumers. 

On February 28th, 2017, the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MoE&NR), through Gazette Notice 2334, banned “the use, manufacture and importation of all plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging” to protect the environment as they are not biodegradable. An exception was however given to bags used to dispose of biomedical and hazardous waste. 

Following the ban, NEMA pronounced its intentions to impose a total ban on PET and HDPE (plastic) bottles. However, the MoENR has indicated that they would encourage manufacturers to develop plans to recycle as opposed to ban the use of plastics. It is clear from these pronouncements that the government is not decided on the best policy option to handle plastics in the country. 

Undoubtedly, the use of plastic has made life easier for consumers and manufacturers of products across all sectors. Globally, there are countries such as Denmark and Sweden who have demonstrated that waste can prove to be a valuable resource to the economy. The Danish Government has developed a strategy for a circular economy where it seeks to accelerate the transition to a more sustainable society where materials and products are recirculated, used for their full potential, and waste is minimised.

KAM now seeks BAF support to conduct research to document global best practice on managing plastic waste; develop a unified position of the private sector and action plan, and inform the development of a suitable policy framework on plastics in Kenya. 

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