Top 10 Alternatives to Plastic Bags

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The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources ban on Plastic Carrier Bags takes effect today. The 28th of August 2017 will be set in stone as a day when Kenya advocated to reduce its plastic production and consumption rate as we edge one step closer to achieving a green economy.

Everyone uses plastic bags. We carry goods in them from the supermarket to local grocery stores and even random places like our local kiosks, vibandas and butchery. We use them as waste disposal bags as they can be able to hold litter without attracting rodents. Plastic bags are convenient as they do not leak and we are assured of keeping dry whenever we carry items that may leak. Milk bottles, juice bottles and liquid detergents are items that easily leak if not properly packaged when purchased. How will we solve this predicament of avoiding causing a mess whenever we purchase goods that may leak? Will we adapt to using already available solutions and create others as we seek to have a clean and green environment?

A number of skeptics do not agree with the Plastic Bag ban set forth by the government. Many say its untimely, others say its impractical. In most cases, Kenyans say the government hasn’t provided any solutions. We seem not to remember we are government as well and can provide solutions. This could be an investment opportunity for those who build doors where there are none.

Related: 5 Reasons Why I Support the Plastic Bag Ban

The world is full of realists and dreamers. Those who believe the plastic ban is not worth it taking to account that Kenyans need to be heavily educated on consumer use and ethics as well those who believe we can live without plastic bags which has already ensued in other countries respectively.

“Both optimists and pessimists contribute to our society. The optimist invents the airplane and the pessimist the parachute.” – Gladys Bertha

These alternatives to the plastic carries bags will most likely be effective now as we get rid of part of the plastic menace polluting our rivers, oceans and green spaces, silently killing our domestic, wild animals and plants as well as us humans and littering our homesteads, streets and recreational areas.

  1. Baskets made from natural materials

Sisal, banana bark, Jute, cotton, canvas and papyrus reeds, Water hyacinth

Remember when carrying kiondos wasn’t such a big deal. Then over time the trend disappeared and its only our grandparents who seem to use them. From today, the trend is bag. If you don’t have one, then you must be missing out. This alternative is convenient, comes in various sizes and is aptly made in beautiful shades. Kiondos are mostly made from sisal. This is a chance for the sisal industry in Kenya to bloom.

Other industries such as cotton will also grow. Who said we are losing jobs. My take, we are creating jobs for the ‘Wanjiku Revolution’, the small scale enterprises and the local cottage industries.

Kiondos, Plastic ban

Kiondos. Image credits

  1. Cardboard Boxes and paper bags

We may reason plastic bags are a better choice for the environment other than paper which will involve trees, but they often are not. Plastic bags are made from non-renewable crude oil making them non-biodegradable. Millions of drums of oil are used to produce them and once they’re made, it’s nearly impossible to get rid of them.

Boxes and paper bags offer a much better alternative to plastics since they are biodegradable. They can also be made from water hyacinths with is currently choking our water sources to make paper bags. When you are offered to carry goods in a box at your preferred supermarket, don’t hesitate; keep calm and embrace the ban. (The one major drawback will be when liquids leak.)

Paper bag: Image Credit

  1. Synthetic Fibers

These come in many forms; Woven polypropylene plastic bags (gunny bags), Non-woven polypropylene plastic bags (cloth-like bags), laminated polypropylene and Polyolefin fiber bags.

Synthetic plastics may still be plastics but this bags are reusable over a much longer period of time than plastic bags. They also come in different shapes and sizes as well and durability standards.

Woven polypropylene plastic bags (gunny bags):

Woven polypropylene plastic bags (gunny bags): Image Credit

  1. Upcycled Jeans and T-shirt bags

This is a fun project which you can do-it-yourself. It will save money and promote recycling/upcycling. The material, especially for denim, is sturdy, so it will hold up under weight. This bags are very versatile and can be used when you’re out-and-about as a creative fashion statement.

This tutorial on how to make a no-sew T-shirt bag will definitely make use of those old T-shirts. They are not to be used as rags anymore.

Denim;s Up-cycled: Image Credit

  1. Handmade Crocheted bags, beaded bags, Ankara

As we adjust to the plastic ban, why not get handy and make bags from yarn, beads and Ankara fabrics. If you can crotchet or sew, take this opportunity to make and design simple crocheted and sewed market bags that will not only help you clients go green and look stylish at the same time but also start an enterprise.

Market tote bag:

Market tote bag: Image Credit

  1. Mesh Bags


These are lightweight, see-through bags, reusable, sometimes with handles as part of the entire bag. Great for carrying fresh groceries from your local market. You can see what’s in each bag and easily unpack your goods when you get home. They can be recycled once their useful life is over.

Mesh bags:

Mesh bags: Image Credit

  1. Up-cycled Newspapers and magazines

Let’s get crafty and create. This is an amazing gift bag idea or when carrying light items. Using magazine covers and newspaper clippings. creates a kind of historic bag that honors moments in the world, while still transcending time and place. This encourages the creative trade to be more trendy as they create one-of-a-kind designs.

Newspaper gift bag

Newspaper gift bag: Image credit

  1. Bottles, containers, Mason jars

Alternatives to plastic bags for storage come in all shapes and sizes. We tend to use clear bags to store food in the fridge. Why not use containers to store food in the freezer as well as leftovers in the fridge? If you are a farm of Milk bars/ATM’s, you can carry your own bottle. It’s a good time to keep margarine, butter containers and mason jars. You never know when they will come in handy.

Food Storage Containers: Image Credit

  1. Wax Paper

Wax paper was used way back to wrap sandwiches and other items. They are durable, flexible, and recyclable and keep food items fresh. They also keep moisture out. Wax paper can be used to wrap pastry such as mandazi, samosas, chapatti and cookies as well as other dry food items. Though not recyclable, it is biodegradable in its unaltered form.

Bread wrapped in Wax Paper: Image Credit

  1. Repurposed weaved plastic bag baskets

Are you wondering what to do with the stock pile of plastic bags in your drawers? Worry no more. They can be weaved into durable and long lasting baskets.

Weaved bag from plastics

Weaved bag from plastics: Image Credit

Do you have or know any other alternatives to add on the list? The comment section is waiting. Meanwhile follow Nyika Silika on Facebook and always get the latest updates straight to your timeline.


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Vicki Wangui
Vicki Wangui
Vicki Wangui is a believer in all things beautiful. A believer in spreading information in regards to environmental awareness. A believer in sharing all that is good in Kenya's natural world. A believer in speaking truth with no boundaries. Do you have a story, photo, experience or message you need to share? Send your work to or

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  1. […] Carry your own carrier bags to prevent yourself from buying more […]

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