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  • Cecilia Wandiga

Kenya Sustainable Cities - Plastics Transitions from a Dreaded Ban to Exciting Bio-Opportunities


We are now 8 months into what was initially a much dreaded ban on single use plastic bags. The social benefits are rapidly mounting and the international community is taking notice.

Air passengers are stunned by all the measures alerting about plastic bags before they land. As they get off the plane they are pleasantly surprised by the plethora of available alternatives for bags. 

Consumers have grown used to carrying their reusable bags to the store. Sanitation is back to proper facilities. Streets are noticeably cleaner. Fishing nets are not chocked with plastic bags.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/25/nairobi-clean-up-highs-lows-kenyas-plastic-bag-ban

We still have a number of steps to make the transition a complete success. 

1. Affordable alternative reusable containers 

We used to have a thriving affordable craft industry in Kenya - can local bags be developed for 5Ksh?

2. Circular Economy job creation for the plastics sector 

Here is a useful blueprint to guide us https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/news/new-plastics-economy-report-offers-blueprint-to-design-a-circular-future-for-plastics

3. Local innovation in biodegradable plastic

This is where we have a golden opportunity to create high-quality and high income jobs in Kenya. There is currently no globally accepted standard for bioplastic formulation. For once, we are on par with the international community and the playing field is level. It is up to us Kenyans to define our industrial position. 

Principles to consider:

A. Each type of plastic has industrial performance functionality that needs to be replicated in bioplastics while simultaneously ensuring mass affordability 

B. Biodegradability goes beyond effective biodegradation, biodegradability must include an assessment of the endocrinal effects on different species (our species diversity is a Kenyan advantage) 

C. Instead of replicating the single use value chains that got us into this mess, let us design multi-use value chains that maximise industrial, consumer and environmental cross-functionality (example: bioplastic bags that can be used as fertilisers when we are finished with the carrying functionality - how do we create businesses that improve on what we once considered to be waste?) 

This is an exiting time to be alive and an exciting time to co-create our healthy bioindustrial future. 

Check out our Circular Economy resource page for more technical guidance 

https://www.csti.or.ke/circular-economy-info

If you would like to hire us for R&D collaboration, we offer pocket friendly rates and high quality output 

https://www.csti.or.ke/value

Images Courtesy of Pixabay.com and Ellen McArthur Foundation 


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