Opportunity. Any set back always leads to an opportunity. An opportunity to learn, grow, innovate and create anything out of that set back. Kenya’s plastic bag ban presents an opportunity, especially for manufacturers of plastic bags, to create reusable and Eco-friendly bags that will cater for our every need just as the plastics did. It is an opportunity for companies and the government, through the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives , to pride themselves in reducing their carbon footprints and also for citizens to realise the positive outlook of leaving a life free from plastics.
Plastics may be convenient but their effect to the environment, even when recycled, poses a danger to our planet from plant and animal species to our overall health as human beings. Considering animal and plant species have it worse since they can easily consume plastics without knowledge compared to us as humans who have a cognitive ability to reason, caring about other species that occupy the spaces we live in is important. We should also remember the direct and indirect negative impact of plastic in our lives as well.
Plastics bags are low cost, light weight, durable, very flexible and a barrier to moisture. With the plastic ban in effect in most parts of the country, making a product that will be able to cater to all these benefits the plastic has will be challenging but is a course worth pursuing
In an effort to create products we can use and reuse for long periods and reduce waste since the products are biodegradable, this is an area that will benefit us, including plants and other animals over the use of plastic.
Sisal is a natural fiber, strong and durable that grows quite well in the coastal region of Kenya. This is a material used to make Kiondos, baskets or bags that can easily carry goods in a compacted way. Rugs, luxury home furnishings, ropes, twines, paper, craft materials and dartboards are other products sisal fiber can produce. The sisal industry will create employment for the thousands of residents in this industry right from plantation to harvesting to drying and weaving the end product.
It is the least environmentally damaging harvested plant as no pesticides or chemical fertilizers are used. Weeding is carried out by hand.
This is an another industry that should be tapped into. As we phase out plastic bags, we need different materials coming from different areas of the country. Papyrus Reeds can be harvested and processed into high-quality products including baskets, shopping bags, purses, and furniture that do not harm the environment, and are also cheaper. The supply of papyrus is continuous because it regenerates to full height in only two weeks after cutting.
This was a dying industry. With corruption been the major cause of collapse for this industry, we should consider bringing it back to life. Let the machines breath again. However, if corruption still looms in the air within this industry, this would lead to uncoordinated tree harvesting, possibly in protected areas, all in an effort to produce paper bags. Although, this industry could consider recycling the already used paper bags to produce recycled paper bags. It would mean having a proper waste disposal mechanism all across major cities in the country. This is possible.
Another industry that has been struggling to survive. So many employment opportunities as well as innovation are waiting from Kenya’s plastic ban. Cotton production in Kenya currently stands at 4,000 metric tonnes of lint while the spinning capacity demand is about 10,000 metric tons of lint and 50 percent of requirements are imported.
This plant is choking our rivers and lakes and finding innovative ways to get rid of this invasive species will go a long way in killing two birds with one stone. Yes, I’m being too clichéd, but consider this; carrier bags made out of water hyacinth which will in the end be biodegradable once done with. The only set back is, we may begin ‘growing’ it on our water sources in order to feed the demand for biodegradable bags and packaging material.
Why waste when we could profit from making weaved carrier bags from banana fiber.
Wool is an essential natural fiber sourced from sheep. This can be processed to make yarns which will in turn be used to make crotchet and/or knitted carrier bags.
Leather is a natural and long lasting product sourced from hides and skin of most domestic animals.
Sewing and embroidery are top on the list of cottage industries that will grow from the plastic bag ban. A sector that has so many creative ideas that could be used to create reusable carrier or packaging bags.
This is for those who claimed 1 million jobs will be lost. The branding industry will still thrive. From when branding was done on plastic bags, this will now be implemented on reusable bags made from some of the above material products fully sourced in Kenya.
Do you have a life changing idea that will effectively replace plastic bags? Why not take up this opportune moment in Kenya’s History. Innovate.