More than 25 traders have been arrested in Embakasi East, Nairobi County, after they were found using banned plastic bags.
The exercise is part of a crackdown by the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) that kicked off on Wednesday in Nairobi, a day after a nation.africa expose showed single-use plastic bags had made a big comeback in city markets.
The crackdown, Nema says, is aimed at flushing out rogue vendors who have reverted to using polythene bags to package goods for their customers.
The traders apprehended by Nema officials included mama mbogas, butchers, miraa (Khat) sellers and sugarcane vendors.
“We started on Monday across the country. In Nairobi, we began the exercise yesterday in Embakasi East. Our target was especially the market that is near Embakasi police station,” Nema deputy director of enforcement Salome Machua said.
She added: “They are currently booked at the Embakasi police station. Those found using the single-use polythene bags include butchery attendants, mama mbogas and miraa traders. On road reserves, we arrested some sugarcane vendors.”
According to Ms Machua, the agency will also start arresting anyone found carrying goods packaged in plastic bags.
“One interesting thing is that people are aware that they are doing the wrong thing. If you ask them why, they say they were given carrots or any other items packaged that way by the hawkers. This will not be accepted anymore, because if we cut the demand then the suppliers will have nowhere to sell,” Ms Machua added.
“The suppliers have become very smart. They have left the Industrial Area and gone to their homes, from where they produce these illegal products. Today we are planning to go to Utawala and the Central Business District (CBD). We have information that most of the suppliers of the polythene bags are in an uptown market,” she went on.
Another 30 traders were arrested in Eastleigh, Nairobi.
The single-use polythene bags were banned by the government in 2017 in efforts to promote a healthy environment.
Through a gazette notice published the same year, Nema said anyone caught using the single-use polythene bags shall be liable to a fine of between Sh2 million and Sh4 million, or imprisoned for between one year and four years, or both.
Speaking to the Nation during a past interview, Environment CS Keriako Tobiko confirmed his office was aware that the plastic bags had made a comeback in the markets.
He blamed neighbouring countries for the influx.
“The challenge we are currently facing is the running battles some of our officers have to engage in with the traders. This is dangerous because when you chase them, they might lead you to an area where they gang up against you. Sometimes even those arrested start getting rough. Also, the markets are big and once you arrest a few, word goes round fast,” remarked Ms Machua.