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Kenyans Can Now Be Jailed For Breaking Strict New Plastic Bag Laws

It's estimated that the country uses 24 million plastic bags a month.

29/08/2017 2:19 PM AEST | Updated 29/08/2017 2:19 PM AEST

A strict ban on plastic bags has been enforced in Kenya on Monday which prevents anyone from selling, manufacturing or using plastic bags.

Penalties for breaking this law include fines of up to $38,000 ($A47,000) or a four-year prison sentence.

Kenyans use an estimated 24 million plastic bags a month, and these new laws aim to combat the toxic effects large levels of plastic have on animals and the environment. Apart from problems with pollution and plastics, the bags also harm animals when they accumulate in water ways, suffocating birds and turtles.

Al Jazeera reports that butchers regularly find remnants of plastic bags in the stomachs of cattle, which harms the animal and damages the health of the humans consuming the meat.

SIMON MAINA via Getty Images
Plastic bags harm both the environment and the animals that live within it.

Baz Ratner / Reuters
An employee removes plastic bags found in cows' stomachs at a slaughterhouse in Kenya.

It took Kenya nearly 10 years to pass these new laws, but plastic bag manufactures and employees have opposed the ban, saying that approximately 80,000 jobs could be lost. The ABC reports that this would see the closure of 176 bag manufactures, as Kenya is the main plastic bag exporter for the region.

Samuel Matonda, spokesman for the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, told the ABC that the consequences of these laws will affect people's livelihoods.

"The knock-on effects will be very severe," Mr Matonda told the ABC.

"It will even affect the women who sell vegetables in the market — how will their customers carry their shopping home?"

Kenya joined 40 other countries who have banned or taxed single-use bags when they passed the laws. Some of these include China, Italy, Germany, Botswana and Rwanda.

Australia is on the path to banning the plastic bag in supermarkets. Major supermarkets Coles and Woolworths have announced that they will stop providing customers with single-use plastic bags by the end of July 2018. Harris Farm Market has also said they will ban the plastic bag by January 1st 2018.

According to Clean Up Australia, about 3.9 billion bags are used in Australian each year. Only three percent of these are recycled for a second use.

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