I now return to my second favourite niche blog topic after polyamory: carrier bags!
A friend points me towards this article as proof that banning carrier bags is not just a wealthy, middle-class hobby-horse. Let’s see, shall we?
Kenyans producing, selling or even using plastic bags will risk imprisonment of up to four years or fines of $40,000 (£31,000) from Monday, as the world’s toughest law aimed at reducing plastic pollution came into effect.
The average monthly salary in Kenya is about
Kenya’s law allows police to go after anyone even carrying a plastic bag.
I can’t see this being abused at all, oh no. This looks less like an environmental measure than a typically African method of keeping the peasants in line.
Many bags drift into the ocean, strangling turtles, suffocating seabirds and filling the stomachs of dolphins and whales with waste until they die of starvation.
Kenya’s population is about 47m. It’s largest city is Nairobi with 3.1m, located about 480km from the sea. It’s largest port city is Mombasa with a population of 1.2m. I can well believe an awful lot of plastic gets chucked into the sea around there, but why the nationwide ban? Do plastic bags from Nairobi really end up in the sea? Has anyone studied this?
“If we continue like this, by 2050, we will have more plastic in the ocean than fish,” said Habib El-Habr, an expert on marine litter working with the UN environment programme in Kenya.
Ah, right. This is all part of UN campaign, no doubt being pushed by wealthy, middle-class bureaucrats living in the swanky areas of Nairobi, assuming they even live in Kenya. Habib El-Habr, who I doubt is Kenyan, has been working in the UN since 1988. When do you think he last did his own shopping?
Plastic bags, which El-Habr says take between 500 to 1,000 years to break down, also enter the human food chain through fish and other animals. In Nairobi’s slaughterhouses, some cows destined for human consumption had 20 bags removed from their stomachs.
I don’t doubt that there is awful plastic pollution in Kenya – I’ve seen the beaches near Lagos after all – but this is more to do with the country having no proper waste management system. This is a direct result of a culture of graft, corruption, and callous neglect on the part of the ruling elites (enabled and supported by the likes of the UN) so common to most of Africa, but nobody wants to address that. Instead, the ruling elites can earn applause from international bodies and western middle classes by passing draconian, blanket bans which won’t affect them.
It took Kenya three attempts over 10 years to finally pass the ban, and not everyone is a fan.
So why did it take three attempts? Was it because the ban is being foisted on the people of Kenya by do-gooder outsiders with no stake in the country? Alas, the Guardian doesn’t say.
Samuel Matonda, spokesman for the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, said it would cost 60,000 jobs and force 176 manufacturers to close. Kenya is a major exporter of plastic bags to the region.
Ah, but who cares about them? There is the greater good to consider. They can always go back to a life of peasant agriculture.
“The knock-on effects will be very severe,” Matonda said. “It will even affect the women who sell vegetables in the market – how will their customers carry their shopping home?”
And we’re at the same place we are in the west: wealthy middle-classes who live near shops, drive cars, or have domestic helpers lobby for laws whose impact will fall mainly on the poor in order to make themselves feel virtuous. But do these people lobby for a ban on disposable nappies? No, of course not. No way are these middle-class mothers going to rinse shitty nappies in the sink and boil them on the stove.
Big Kenyan supermarket chains like France’s Carrefour and Nakumatt have already started offering customers cloth bags as alternatives.
And those who can’t afford to shop in Carrefour will just have to risk crippling fines for carrying their yams home in a carrier bag from the market. The good news is they can probably get the policeman to waive the fines in return for sexual favours.