Kenya has made commendable strides in the fight against plastic pollution, becoming a regional leader in implementing effective measures to address this environmental crisis. But it stands at a critical juncture with a proposed bill threatening to undermine the progress.
A proposal in the Finance Bill, 2023 to remove excise duty from locally manufactured plastics is a cause for concern. While the intention may be to boost local production and create employment, the potential consequences cannot be overlooked.
Plastic pollution is an ever-growing menace that poses severe threats to human health and the environment. It contaminates water bodies, kills marine life and leaches harmful chemicals into the ecosystem. In urban places like Nairobi, it is to blame for the perennial blockage of drainage systems and the foul smell one catches from roadside trenches on major highways and in the estates.
What’s more, the burden of plastic waste falls disproportionately on marginalise communities, exacerbating social and economic inequalities. The proposal will intensify the negative consequences.
Besides, it sends a dangerous message, effectively incentivising and normalising the production of more plastic. With soaring plastic consumption, the ill-conceived bill will exacerbate a dire situation. Increased plastic production means more plastic waste, leading to higher pollution levels and intensified strain on overburdened waste infrastructure.
Kenya’s success in tackling plastic pollution is rooted in the implementation of progressive policies such as the ban on single-use plastic bags and the introduction of recycling initiatives.
Rather than encourage the production of more plastic, we must focus on fostering innovation and supporting the development of sustainable alternatives. This includes investing in the research and development of biodegradable materials, promoting the use of reusable products and supporting businesses that prioritise environmentally friendly practices.
By incentivising innovation and sustainable alternatives, we can create a thriving market that embraces eco-conscious solutions while reducing our reliance on harmful plastics.
We cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the perils of plastic pollution, nor can we allow short-term economic gains to jeopardize our long-term sustainability. We must hold steadfast to our commitment to a greener future and reject the bill.
Instead, let us champion legislation that encourages responsible production, consumption and waste management. By doing so, we will safeguard our environment, protect marginalised communities and pave the way for a cleaner healthier Kenya.
Ms Wako is a health and science reporter with the ‘Daily Nation’. firstname.lastname@example.org.