Carrier bags issue needs to be handled with care

08Jun 2022
The Guardian
Carrier bags issue needs to be handled with care

CONCERNS by the top state leadership on World Environment Day could roughly be said to have related to two distinctive aspects, one on the threat of dwindling forest cover and invading forest reserve areas in various parts of the country.

Here the difficult aspect was how far local authorities can go in ending the charcoal business, an issue that actually needs to be resolved at the level of central government, for instance setting out clear policy on accessing gas cylinders at a household level, where the government can reach a tax break accord with gas vending firms to make cylinders very lowly priced.

Still the government would also need to move a certain measure of subsidy on the gas refilling so that its price and use value is more economical than charcoal, which isn’t the case at present despite charcoal being increasingly scarce. There is an element of policy weakness which academic apologists often describe as ‘market failure,’ namely that the market has failed to take up natural gas, but it is unclear what then comes next. Instead of using billions of shillings financing tree planting campaigns or protecting forests, the government can free up cylinders to an extent, and cushion the price of gas, to make it routine.

While the forests issue is clearly one of policy, the issue of carrier bags is really one of regulatory initiatives, where the regulatory authorities are seeking to sanitize the use of plastic bags or carriers at all levels. Admittedly, the regulators have achieved the feat of removing most single use plastic bags, and what remains is transparent quasi-plastic for food products in particular, as they ought to be visible to the buyer. Whether wrapping material can be fully transparent with no plastic is a scientific or control issue.

When the wantonly overused single wrapping plastic bags being thrown all over the place is not there, we must admit we have made some progress, and where relevant find other methods to handle remaining problems. When it comes to carrier bags it would imply that they are used over and over again, as the direct wrappers available in shops are recyclable, in which case carrier bags of a plastic sort are serially used. When an item isn’t used once and thrown away, it is no longer a priority in environmental threats.

Carrier bags are usually disposed in the manner of their use, namely in their being stuffed with other disposables, and placed outside for clearing by solid waste collectors. The idea that this item of property may fetch a fine is an environment officer decides to use the World Environment Day speeches to start punishing people for that reason is a bit out of touch with reality. Bags used over weeks or months and then collected by solid waste trucks aren’t comparable to flimsy bags chewed up by cows or fish at sea.

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