CS Soipan: Plastic bags biggest threat to environment conservation efforts

Environment Day

Environment CS Soipan Tuya accompanied by Nakuru Governor Susan Kihika plant a tree at Lake Nakuru to mark World Environment Day.

Photo credit: Boniface Mwangi I Nation Media Group

Despite being banned in 2017, single-use plastic bags remain the biggest threat to environmental conservation efforts.

The Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change, Environment and Forestry, Soipan Tuya, has directed the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) to intensify its crackdown on the plastic papers, which she says have found their way back into the markets.

Speaking during the World Environment Day celebrations in Nakuru, the CS regretted that the fight against plastic pollution was relaxed immediately after the ban, resulting in it being smuggled back into markets.

She drew the attention of law enforcement agencies at both national and county levels and directed them to take immediate action to get rid of the plastic bags.

"Nema and the county environment committees across the country are today put on notice on this World Environment Day that going forward we need to have targeted and sustained enforcement on single-use plastics to rid our country of single-use plastics even as we work on the plastic regulations," said Ms Tuya.

Ms Soipan noted that Kenya supports the international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution to be adopted by the UN Environment Assembly in 2022, which is based on a comprehensive approach that addresses the full plastic cycle.

According to her, it is the implementation of the resolution that will provide a sustainable solution to the global plastic menace.

She outlined the national solid waste management strategies that Kenya has already developed, which will guide the management of solid waste in the country.

These include the development of the Sustainable Waste Management Policy, the National Marine Litter Management Action Plan and the Sustainable Waste Management Act of 2022, which she said will promote sustainable waste management and reduce the amount of materials dumped in landfills.

Soipan Tuya

Environmental crusaders carry plastic bottles as they March to Lake Nakuru for world environmental day ceremony presided by CS Soipan Tuya.

Photo credit: Boniface Mwangi I Nation Media Group

"Its overall objective is to improve the health of all Kenyans by ensuring a clean and healthy environment through the reduction of air, land, freshwater and marine pollution, promote and ensure effective delivery of waste services, create an enabling environment for employment in the green economy, recycling and recovery,

Establish an environmentally sound infrastructure and system for sustainable waste management. Promote the circular economy, green growth practices and the integration of resource efficiency principles into sustainable consumption and production practices," Ms Tuya said.

The CS said the ministry is working on the circular economy strategy, which is in its final stages, to ensure that plastics are recycled or have minimal impact on the environment.

The regulations, once gazetted, will ensure that every manufacturer or importer of products has a plan to recycle and reduce waste in the country.

The regulations, she said, will include colour codes for the separation of different waste fractions.

The CS said the circular approach will create more employment opportunities for the youth who will be involved in the recycling processes, as well as promote innovation through the value addition process.

In line with this year's World Environment Day theme "Beat Plastic Pollution", the Ministry of Environment, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, has embarked on a programme to educate children at an early age about waste management and the opportunities it offers.

"We need to start training our children from this early age to take responsibility for the waste that we as a country create and generate every day and how to turn it into a useful step in terms of livelihood and energy and the other opportunities that we have," said Ms Tuya.

Statistics on global plastic pollution from the UNEP report show that more than 400 million tonnes of plastic are produced worldwide every year.

Environment DAy

Bomet Governor Hillary Barchok (right) and his Kisii counterpartSimba Arati (left), lead residents of Silibwet trading centre in Bomet County to mark the World Environment Day on June 5, 2023.

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai I Nation Media Group

Half of this is for single use. Of this, only an estimated 10 per cent is recycled and an estimated 19 to 23 million tonnes ends up in water bodies such as rivers, lakes and oceans,

According to the report, tiny plastic particles up to five millimetres in diameter, known as microplastics, find their way into food, water and air.

A UNEP report on plastic debris and marine litter shows that each person on the planet consumes more than 50,000 plastic particles a year.

Nakuru Governor Susan Kihika said her county had completed a rigorous exercise on participatory climate risk assessment in all our 55 words and developed a county climate change action plan and submitted it as a minimum qualification for the investment grant.