World Oceans Day and Kenya’s War on Plastics

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Development and environmental conservation
7th June 2020
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5th July 2020

World Oceans Day and Kenya’s War on Plastics

Oceans Day
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Imagine living day by day eating huge chunks of plastics which you mistake for food and what that would to your body. As much as we realize the negative effects of plastics getting into our body systems, marine wildlife, who are most afflicted by plastic waste, cannot be able to say what plastic does to their bodies. Their ecosystem is highly dependent on the actions of human beings, noting that marine ecosystems play a vital role in the health and wealth of citizens.

The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) estimates that every year, more than eight billion tons of plastic (which is about 21.9 million plastic a day) ends up in the worlds’ oceans. This has a  fatal effect on marine wildlife as a result, affecting the fisheries and tourism industry. In the end, this leads up to an estimated loss of at least eight billion dollars in damage to marine ecosystems. The catch of it all is that about 80% of the litter ending up in oceans is made up of plastics. A study from Plymouth University indicated that plastic pollution affects at least seven hundred marine species; while some estimates suggest that at least one hundred million marine mammals are killed each year from plastic pollution.

This is why, on this day of 8th June, World Oceans Day, it is important to shed light on the plight of the world’s oceans. World Oceans Day concept was proposed after the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. It was then officially recognized by the United Nations since 2009. This special day is about creating awareness on the reasons for protecting our marine biodiversity as well as highlight the impact of human activities.

So, what is the status of protection so far?

Internationally, UNEP has pledged through its Clean Seas campaign advocating for growing the global movement to protect thirty percent of our blue planet by 2030. The Declaration of World Oceans instigated worldwide action. June 8th has been celebrated which advocates on various themes to achieve the 2030 goal of protecting our seas.

In Kenya, we are plagued with the same issue of plastic waste in our marine ecosystems. In light of this, Kenya has taken bold steps in reducing its plastic usage.

First was the nationwide ban on single-use plastic bags which imposed stiff penalties. Single-use plastics bags are an example of plastic waste that finds itself into our oceans. The National Environment and Management Authority (NEMA) estimated that about tens million plastic bags were handed out in supermarkets every year in Kenya which thereafter polluted the environment. Not only has this ban changed people’s perspectives on plastic waste but it has made citizens more personally accountable for the plastics they use on a day to day basis. However, it was still acknowledged that single-use plastics was the major culprit.

Taking into account from this ban, His Excellency, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the ban of single-use plastics in protected areas at the Women Deliver 2019 Global Conference held in Canada. This ban was conducted through the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife. It took effect on World Environment Day, June 5th, 2020. The ban categorized that the protected areas included national parks and reserves, beaches, and world heritage sites.

This was a groundbreaking step in Kenya’s war on single-use Plastics and it provides the necessary momentum in protecting our biodiversity.

How can Kenyan citizens aid in plastic use reductions?

As much as protected areas have been covered, there are parts that are still in motion. For example, the implementation plan of the single-use plastic ban is currently under review and it may take time for institutions to actually implement the ban. We also have to take a look at our own individual plastic consumption taking into account that most of it end up in the ocean.

Citizens can take action by being part of the public participation process, in policy formulation and implementation; saying no to single-use plastics in their daily activities; avoid single-use plastic packaging and choose takeaways carefully; use alternative means and be generally conscious of consumables. Moreover, a curriculum based on creating awareness on single-use plastics and its effects on ecosystems should be incorporated and supported.

In conclusion, the fight against single-use plastics has been brewing for years and is very entwined with the modern environmental movement. It is therefore important to start the action now or otherwise, we may wake up when it’s too late.

Written by Mary Morrison

Mary Morrison is a young vibrant, dynamic, and creative Advocate with an innate passion for environmental and wildlife protection and conservation. With a background in law and experience working as an environmental advocate, she stands for environmental social justice and protection of humans and animals.

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