In recent weeks, there has been a change of tact on enforcement of the polythene bags ban. Several major announcements have been made recently that have lifted compliance to the polythene bags ban a notch higher. These announcements include
1. Sustained goodwill by the new Cabinet Secretary
In his first speech after taking over the mantle, the new Cabinet Secretary Hon. Keriako Tobiko reiterated his support for the polythene ban. He directed NEMA to upscale its enforcement efforts to ensure that polythene bags are eradicated in Kenya.
2. Expanded enforcement network
In his speech on 25th January 2018 the Director General NEMA reiterated that he had expanded the enforcement team to include Kenya Police Service and the County Government Enforcement Officers. Hence the enforcement was boosted by more officers who could work jointly or alone.
3. Expanded scope of operation
The DG NEMA continued in his speech on 25th January to reiterate that the expanded enforcement team could search for polythene bags from diverse places. He allowed the enforcement teams to stop vehicles, inspect and arrest anyone found using plastic bags. This is unlike before when inspection was restricted to factories and retail outlets.
4. Closure of markets
The DG NEMA threatened on 25th January 2018 that he will work with other partners dealing with markets to ensure closure of those violating the polythene paper ban. This was a strategic shift in enforcement where public were expected to decide whether to remain in business by complying with the ban or get closed down.
The closure of markets was actualised on 22nd February 2018 when Burma market in Nairobi was closed. The traders were reminded that failure to comply with the closure order was an offence which on conviction would attract a penalty of imprisonment for not less than one year and not more than four years or to a fine of not less than two million shillings and not more than four million shillings or to both such fine and imprisonment.
Closing markets had several advantages as an enforcement option
1. It reduces risks to NEMA enforcement officers since cases of resistance and violence had been reported for instance at City Market and Limuru.
2. It shifts decision to comply and monitoring of the same to many people and hence is a collective responsibility.
3. Enforcement becomes cheaper since other than dealing with one person, the market representatives report on levels of compliance.
4. It reduces compliance time and avoids arrests and lengthy court processes
Closure of Burma did not last long since the traders and local politicians came together and agreed to comply with the order by NEMA. Burma market is now polythene bags free.
The Burma incident has compelled other markets to comply with the ban. In this regard, the ban on polythene bags is quickly succeeding, polythene bags are increasingly becoming unppopular and Kenyans are now enjoying a cleaner environment.
NEMA’s change of tact and innovation is slowly bearing sweet fruits.