Getting caught with a plastic bag in Kenya can land you in jail for 4 years

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And here I thought grocery stores around here charging a $0.05 surcharge for paper bags since plastic is banned was outrageous.

In all seriousness I don’t see what it helps by banning re-use of existing plastic bags.


To be fair, the bags used all over Africa aren’t reusable. (I tried. They are often useless even for the first use, not only for re-use.) I am by no means fan of the authoritarian Rwandan governmental approach to anything, but they got one thing right a long(ish) while ago: banning plastic bags.

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Land at the airport in Nairobi, dump all your little toiletry bottles out of their ziploc baggies, throw away the baggies before you get caught with them?

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Does anyone find the 3% directly employed figure rather surprising?

Kenya has ~48 million people, so unless I’m really flubbing the math, that’s 1.4 million-ish people directly manufacturing plastics.

By comparison, the BLS says that “Plastics and Rubber Products Manufacturing: NAICS 326” covers 700,000 employees in the US(out of a total of ~320 million: people, not employees; but my read of “nearly 3% of all Kenyans” was “the Kenyan population” not “the Kenyan labor force”, so the comparison of US plastics manufacturing labor to total US population seemed most likely to be the correct analog; or reasonably close, that’s the nice thing about analogs).

Are we just more efficient at outsourcing? Does Kenya have nothing but artisinal handcrafted plastics with minimal automation? Is the 3% a self serving lie?

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Well the job loss is unfortunate, but they can just retrain as concierges or yacht skippers. Plus, I hear there’s a labor shortage up in North Dakota. Couldn’t the Kenya bag industry just relocate?


I’m playing with a plastic bag right now.

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it makes the enforcement a lot simpler.

I’m not sure they thought past that point.

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Drive along the main Nairobi - Mombasa highway and the bushes on either side are practically coated in disposable plastic bags dumped out of cars. They’re all over the place even inside the game reserves where they get eaten by the animals.

These things are a huge problem and it’s clear that asking people to behave responsibly with them in any country is asking too much from human nature. The sooner we’re rid of plastic bags the better.


I fully support the ban of plastic bags! Except the ones that line cardboard wine boxes.

Without a rollout of helpful alternatives for common uses, this is purely punitive for the person on the street. Reusable bags for shopping are pretty ubiquitous so I made that switch pretty easily, but without an infrastructure change, I’d have a much harder time replacing garbage bags. Biodegradable? Without subsisidies, I imagine those are going to be significantly pricier .

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I think we need to understand the scope of the ban.

Carrier bags with handles and with or without gussets, and
flat bags without handles and with or without gussets;

specifically excluding industrial packaging, and explicitly naming as banned those “available at the counter or freely given outside the industrial setting”

it is not a ban on bags or plastics. It is a ban on those cheap ass dispoable bags, manufactured from natural gas. You know the ones. Just those. We did fine without for the period of time up to around 1985. We will survive.


What is the deficiency? Are they poorly QAed and/or badly process controlled; with holes/failed joints/etc. right at production? So thin as to be vulnerable to even unavoidably common stress? Made of poorly processed material or mixed feedstock with a tendency to separate?

I’m certainly familiar with the fact that ‘plastics’ come in a wide range of seriousness; from flimsy, brittle, junk to fiber filled engineering plastics that probably steal lunch money from zinc alloys and lesser aluminum grades; but plastic bags that routinely fail to be usable a few times unless wildly abused, never mind being unusable once, aren’t really a first world problem.

I suspect that it will come done to enforcement: If the cops go all civil-forfeiture on the situation and just take this as an opportunity to shake down the soft targets for cash; it will undoubtedly be so. If(as is currently the claim; though a claim with a…mixed…record of holding up under scrutiny) they intend to mostly turn a blind eye to end users; they might end up giving the suppliers a shove in the right direction(since it will be harder to justify manufacturing something that has no legal market; and easier to justify manufacturing legal alternatives) without just beating down the end users.

We will see what actually ends up happening.


Yeah, we use twice as much petrochemical per disposable bag. Totally solves the problem.


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See the replies of @One_Brown_Mouse and @MikeR. Also, plastic bags (and plastic, in general) is a world-wide problem which you can easily experience when you visit the remotest of all island in the Pacific. Fuck the “first-world problem” approach big time, in this case.

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That 3% can be reemployed by being clean up crew to pick up the waste, just my 2 cents

And then raise the ban after its cleaned, and develp policy to better handle waste while it gets cleaned

I think I may have misspoken: I was wondering about

because my experience with plastic bags(including my stint bagging groceries; which involved out-of-box testing of a lot of bags) was always that first time use failure rates were extremely, surprisingly, low; and durability across a few uses was fairly solid; outside of a vulnerability to sharp or pointed objects.

Their durability as a pollutant obviously exceeds their durability as a bag by centuries, if not millenia; and plastics pollution is a worldwide problem; but plastic bags that aren’t reusable and are often useless even for the first use is not a worldwide problem; nor even a problem I was aware was a problem; hence my curiosity about how local bags differ and what makes them fail.

I did not intend to suggest that plastics are somebody else’s problem; but to ask specifically about plastic bag failure; which you described as being a far more serious problem with the African plastic bags of your experience than has ever been the case with American or European plastic bags of my experience.

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Exactly. Any time you criminalize something which is done/used by a large portion of the population, the opportunity for graft and bribery pegs the gauge.

I am sure that Kenya’s police officers and local politicians are much happier than they were before this law.

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