KENYA – Environment secretary Judi Wakhungu has announced a looming ban on use of plastic bottles to curb environmental pollution.

The move will now require water bottlers and manufacturers of soft drinks and juices to find alternative packaging material.

Prof Wakhungu two months ago gazetted a blanket ban on use of plastic bags, which is set to come into effect in September.

Environmentalists have praised the ban, saying it will help to minimise pollution of urban spaces, forests and water bodies, but manufacturers have warned of looming job losses claiming the implementation period is too short.

“We don’t have a choice. Phase one (of the ban) is the plastic carrier bags and the flat bags. But going forward we will also have to extend this to the plastic bottles because again if you look at most of our drainage they are clogged by the plastic bottles as well,” Prof Wakhungu said in an interview on Thursday.

The gazette notice published in mid-March imposed a ban on the use, manufacture and importation of all plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging from September.

The move -the third attempt in a decade- saw Kenya join other environmentally conscious countries in the war on use of plastics.

The Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) has, however, termed the ban as “illegal and rushed”.

KAM chief executive Phyllis Wakiaga claimed it would hurt 176 plastic manufacturing companies and affect more than 60,000 employees.

But Prof Wakhungu has dismissed the figure as an “exaggeration,” though she said the government has not established how many workers will be affected by the ban.

She argued that the ban would spur growth of homegrown industries dealing in alternative packaging material including traditional baskets “kiondos” made from sisal.

“It’s a fair question for Kenyans to ask if the time (to implement the ban) is enough. But is what is a reasonable time and when is the appropriate time when a discussion has been going on for 15 years or more? She posed.

May 18, 2017: Business Day