Single-use plastics in Kenya’s protected areas, including its national parks, beaches, forests, and conservation areas, will be banned starting next year, according to President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Kenyatta announced the change during his address at the Women Deliver 2019 Conference in Canada on Wednesday for World Environment Day.
"Sustainable environment is a guarantee to a healthy, better, and productive society," Kenyatta said at Women Deliver. "And that is why women and girls who are key victims of unsustainable practices must own this campaign as part of the gender equality campaign."
The ban on plastic items, such as utensils, plates, cups, straws and water bottles, will take effect exactly one year from the announcement — June 5, 2020.
Kenya has been one of the countries at the forefront of the fight to protect the environment by aiming to reduce harmful pollutants and limit human activity that contributes to climate change through new government regulations.
Kenya has been attempting to regulate its plastic problem since 2007, when the government proposed its first ban on polythene bags. In 2017, on its third try, Kenya passed one of world’s harshest plastic bag bans in the world, with the production, sale, or use of plastic bags deemed punishable by a $38,000 fine or a four-year prison sentence.
This new regulation differs from the strict 2017 ban in that it covers all single-use plastics, but only in protected areas, where as the initial law specifically targeted the use of plastic bags nationwide.
The country’s National Environment Management Authority recently reported that there has been a resurgence in the use of plastic bags, with businessmen illegally smuggling plastic bags across Kenya’s shared border with Uganda. A number of arrests have been made since the implementation of the ban.
With the success of the ban on plastic bags still to be seen and the limited nature of the regulation of single-use plastics in the country, it remains unclear whether the measure will help to eradicate Kenya’s plastic problem. But Kenya continues to establish itself as a pioneering force in the war against plastic.
The country participated in the United Nations Environmental Assembly in Nairobi in May 2016, approving resolutions to address environmental issues such as marine plastic litter and microplastics, biodiversity, air quality, chemicals and waste, illegal wildlife traffic, and sustainability.
In December 2017, Kenya also became one of 57 countries to join the UN’s #CleanSeas campaign, committing to promote recycling, protect national bodies of water from marine plastic litter, and reduce the prevalence of single-use plastics.
Kenyatta’s announcement on Wednesday shows the country’s resolve to tackle its plastic problem remains strong.