Traders counting losses as reality sinks on plastic bag ban

poor disposal of plastic bags and bottles have blocked drainage systems in Kenya.Although some Kenyans are against the ban, many people have embraced it.Picture: David Mbewa
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Though Kenyans are slowly learning to cope five months after ban on plastic bags, traders in Busia are still counting loses.

Over five months since the controversial ban on plastics was imposed, most business operators in Busia County are yet to come to terms with the real that they can no longer use the bags. This is especially challenging considering that Busia is a border town and yet Uganda, the neighbouring country has not effected such a law.

The traders say that though the ban by the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) to keep the environment clean was a good one, the notice was inadequate and it impacted negatively on small scale traders who depended on the plastic bags to wrap goods for their clients.

The ban has prompted the traders across the entire Busia County to hike prices of foodstuff so as to enable them offset the high cost of wrapping materials.

A spot check by Reject in most trading centres established that most traders have been compelled to use old newspapers to wrap foodstuff for their clients.

Collins Oloo, a butcher at Harambee Trading Centre bordering Budalangi and Alego Usonga constituencies in Busia and Siaya counties, supports National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), but advised that they should make available to Kenyans recommended wrapping materials.

“I support the move by NEMA to ban the use of plastic bags because they have become a health hazard not only to livestock but also to human-beings,” said Oloo.

Dolorosa Were, a widow and mother of five, who is a small scale trader at Harambee, said she has been buying ten pages of old newspapers at KSh10 and a whole newspaper at KSh30.

“Since the ban on plastic bags came into force a few months ago, I have been forced to buy copies of old newspapers  to use for wrapping items for my clients although this is very expensive,” said Were. She added: “I have been forced to raise prices of foodstuff to enable me make a profit.”

However, some traders in Busia have replaced the plastic bags with the environment-friendly Eco-bags being sold between KSh25 and KSh30
each. However, most small-scale traders say they are unable to afford the exorbitantly costed Eco-bags considering the low profit they are earning from the business.

Helen Nabalayo, a trader from Budalangi Constituency in Busia County said she has been forced to buy customers since the ban on the usage of plastic bags was effected. A kilo of the brown paper packets that contains between 190 and 200 pieces is sold at KSh300 each.

“The brown paper bags, though of good quality are very expensive for a small scale business person like myself.  I buy 190 and 200 pieces at KSh300 every three days and these can only package a 50kg sack of sugar,” explained Nabalayo.

A cross section of traders interviewed strongly opposed the decision by NEMA to extend the ban on plastic bags to the rural villages and small trading centres arguing that it is only in major towns where heaps of plastic bags are found in dumpsites.

“The National Environmental Management Authority should have confined the ban to traders in major towns and urban centres where uncollected garbage has become an eyesore and a health hazard. But this should not apply to rural trading centre where in most occasions the respective county governments have deployed garbage collection personnel to gather and burn the same,” noted Nabalayo.

The National Environmental Management Authority in Busia County maintains that small traders from rural areas cannot be exempted from the order as one way of ensuring the availability of a clean and a litter-free environment.

The traders argue that the banned plastic bag were economical because a kilo containing 200 would be sold at KSh50 and could wrap two bags of sugar each weighing 50 kilograms

“We are currently incurring huge losses since the ban was effected because the plastic bags were cheaper,” said Nabalayo.

However, traders Busia County Government of failing to provide them with bins to deposit garbage before being ferried to the dumpsite.

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