IUCN is supporting national and regional policy frameworks and legislative reform processes, and facilitating the development of national programmes, including action plans and green economy roadmaps
IUCN initiated a desk analysis of gaps and opportunities in current policies and regulatory frameworks. Based on the results of this study, decision-makers will be provided with national reports which assess the impacts and effectiveness of legal instruments and tools available to address plastic pollution. The legal review and effectiveness assessment will in turn inform the development of national action plans and roadmaps.
Following repeated attempts to address plastic pollution, Kenya has catalysed action to reduce pollution through its 2017 ban on the manufacture, import and use of plastic carrier bags. Since the ban went into place, more people have adopted reusable bags, while the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has drawn attention to reduced flooding of some sections of Nairobi City due to less clogging of drainage systems by plastic waste during the long rains.
However, the implementation of the plastic ban has not been without hurdles as NEMA strives to step up the resources required to enforce and monitor the countrywide ban. There have been debates across the country on whether reusable carrier bags should be provided by retailers at zero cost, with some county governments exploring legislation to that effect. Such moves may not be economically favourable for retailers who acquire the bags at a cost, but others argue that if bags are provided for free, consumers will not be conscious enough to reuse them.
With enhanced government desire to take action on PET bottles, private sector actors are exploring alternative safe avenues for handling used PET bottles. For example, NEMA and the Kenya Association of Manufacturers have had consultations to replicate South Africa’s industry-driven and industry-financed PET Recycling Company (PETCO) model to recycle PET plastic bottles, thereby reducing their leakage into terrestrial and marine environments. The establishment of such an entity has potential to promote a circular economy for PET-derived waste by diverting it to new products such as duvets, pillows and trays. There is also a need to ensure that such recycling activities do not promote the recycling of toxins that are contained in certain wastes. Additionally, industry actors are exploring domestic and industrial scale water treatment technologies that deliver safe water to citizens and reduce reliance on PET bottles.
Moving forward, Obadiah Mungai, NEMA’s Chief Environmental Economist, says: “it will be important to reinforce the effectiveness of the plastic ban through regional mechanisms via the East African Community (EAC) in order to seal any loopholes that compromise the 2017 ban. Part of this may entail igniting debate at the EAC legislative assembly on strengthening region-wide implementation of its Polythene Materials Control Bill. The government could also consider strategies that require sorting of waste at source to ensure that recyclable materials are recovered early within waste streams”. Such approaches are in line with the circular economy model, which seeks to design waste out of the system.