The day of reckoning is finally here; the ban on plastic paper bags in Kenya officially becomes effective today, the 28th of August 2017. Stiff penalties await anyone NEMA officials will find in possession of the plastic bags. If caught, one will have to cough up a Kshs 4 million fine or spend four years behind bars. While some businesses, such as supermarkets can easily switch to alternative packaging, for others, like milk vendors, it won’t be so easy. Here are some that will find the going harder.
Mama Mboga, as they are popularly known, are largely dependent on polythene bag packaging because of their relatively low cost and versatility. In most cases, the paper bags had even become the default measuring mode for, say, Sukuma Wiki. Another advantage of the plastic carriers is that they are water proof. Dripping wet vegetables or fruits are conveniently stuffed without the fear of water making other items wet. It will be exciting to see which viable replacement takes over from the polythene.
Milk ATMs are pretty common in every hood that they are now almost competing with bars. It is not surprising to find 3 or 4 within a small rural shopping centre. In most cases, people buy milk from the vendors mostly in the evening as they are returning home from work. Again, the polythene bag comes to the rescue as most would not be carrying containers on their way from work. The vendors have a tough choice of either issuing customers with free containers, a move that will lower profit margins, or provide them at a cost, risking losing price-sensitive buyers.
Roadside Food Vendors
While most have plates that they can collect after, some rely on the plastic bags as they guarantee sales to clients on the move. The ban effectively means they will lose that crop of customers unless they can come up with alternative packaging that will promise to hold the food without leaking soup all over.
The Local Kiosk
While supermarkets and large retailers have the capacity to order and issue alternative packaging to clients, the smaller shop owners may find the cost too steep. While they can provide non-plastic shopping bags at a fee, these are only practical to shoppers who buy many items. Shoppers who had become used to being issued with plastic bags irrespective of how small their purchase may be forced to do their shopping in supermarkets, hurting Kiosk sales.
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