Promote recycling rather than ban plastic packaging

The invention of polytene was a mistake. Not only do certain quarters in government believe this, but polyethylene really was discovered by mistake by a German chemist Hans von Pechmann back in 1898. Further to this the industrially practical  polyethylene was also stumbled upon by accident at the Imperial Chemical Industries in Norwich, England in 1933.

Polythene is the most common plastic in the world with 80 million tonnes of it produced annually and as a byproduct of the oil industry, it is not bio-degradable but highly recyclable. The county government of Nairobi is very well aware of the monumental quantities and infinite qualities of polythene because they regularly extract copious amounts of it from the city’s drainage systems.

‘Keep your city clean’ is the call from City Hall that is ignored as passengers toss plastic water bottles out of bus windows, just before they send a tweet about the deplorable state of garbage collection — which they squarely blame on the Governor. Beyond the rhetoric there needs to be a high level of enforcement as well as incentives for good behavior, if we are to use both the carrot and the stick approach.

The government ban on plastics sends a strong message to us; if we can’t be responsible for how we use plastic packaging then they will take it away from us, just as you take a toy away from a child who’s misusing it. In doing so the manufacturers of plastic packaging are about to take a colossal hit that has major ramifications across the board.

Not only will the market lose about 60,000 jobs affecting many families in the country, but the taxman will have to settle for less when that revenue stream is eliminated. The Government says that the packaging industry chiefs are exaggerating the negative effects of the ban on plastic but have you ever tried to export fish wrapped in paper?

The horticulture farmers urgently need to start thinking about how they’ll get their produce to their markets in one piece, keeping in mind that they have to find alternative packaging within 4 months only. How they will do this is puzzling and perhaps this should have been thought through before exercising the powers at hand. Polythene’s popularity grew from the fact that it is cheap to produce and therefore contains the price of the products that it encloses. The alternative packaging that fertilizer companies adopt may increase the costs to the farmer and by extension push up the price of unga. No… not unga!

Going back to the child with a toy, perhaps we should spend more time and energy implementing programs to control the self-created plastic menace. The agreement to implement a Green Levy between the polythene manufacturers and NEMA that was signed in 2007 should be put into effect.

It proposes to levy 1% of the manufacturers income which will go into setting up a recycling infrastructure that is coupled with public education and a promotion element to support the effort. What it would take is a massive advertising campaign that gets that citizens to take responsibility for our environment and become personal advocates for the cause.

The great and happy feeling of being a good native or business will form a big part of the campaign but it will also be useful to categorically let people know what will come of them if they do not play ball.



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