In Brief

Kenya plastic bag ban: Four years prison or $38,000 fine

'World's toughest plastic bag ban' applies to both locals and tourists entering the country

Kenya is threatening to fine or imprison anyone who makes, sells or imports plastic bags, including local shops selling rubbish bags or tourists wandering out of the airport with a duty free carry-on, the New York Times reports.

Punishments include fines ranging from $19,000 (£14,600) to $38,000 (£29,300), or a maximum prison term of four years. It's a bold move designed to crack down on plastic pollution and environmental waste that The Guardian calls the "world's toughest plastic bag ban".

Kenya joins more than 40 countries that have either limited the use of plastic bags or introduced new taxes. Plastic bags are illegal in Rwanda, for example, where visitors are searched at the airport. San Francisco became the first US municipality to institute a plastic bag ban in 2007, while in the UK shops have been charging customers 5 pence per bag since October 2015.

Kenya's rule went into force yesterday and fruit and vegetable sellers aren't the only ones trying to cope. Kenyan shoppers are believed to use 100 million plastic bags every year, according to the UN.

Supermarket chains operating in Kenya, such as France's Carrefour, have started offering customers cloth bags instead of plastic ones, while Nairobi's retailers and shoppers are switching to bio-friendly bags, Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper reports today.

"Right from daybreak, hawkers operating on the streets of Nairobi had switched to the alternative packaging materials including travel bags and manila papers," the Daily Nation says.

Kenya's environment minister Judy Wakhungu tried to calm fears by telling Reuters that the ban is primarily aimed at manufacturers and suppliers rather than "ordinary wananchi" (common people), but under the new law Kenya's police could go after anyone even carrying a plastic bag.

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