Tough Laws on Pollution: Kenya Bans Use of Plastic Bags

As at Monday 28th August 2017, Kenya joined the likes of Botswana, Morocco, Cameroon, Rwanda, Mauritania and Eritrea which have outlawed the use of plastic carrier bags. On 28 February 2017, through Gazette Notice Number 2356, the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources (the Cabinet Secretary) banned the use, manufacture and importation of all plastic bags used for commercial and household purposes. The Notice which took effect on the 28 August 2017, applies to carrier bags and flat bags.

According to the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) the ban shall apply as follows:

Category 1: Plastic carrier bags

All bags in this category are banned. For clarity these are bags that are used as secondary packages for items in shops, markets etc. There is NO EXEMPTION in this category.

Category 2: Flat bags

Flat bags used for carrying items outside industrial setting e.g groceries and garbage are banned. However, in this category bags used for industrial primary packaging where the product is in direct contact with the plastic and is done at the source, are exempted from the ban. The exemption is subject to:

  1. Extended Producer/ user Responsibility and/or effective Take Back Schemes;
  2. Legibly and permanently labelled bags to indicate the name of the industry manufacturing the product, the end-user and physical addresses for ease of monitoring, traceability and therefore ease of enforcement intervention.
  3. Keeping of inventory/record with the aim of implementing the take back scheme.

Category 3: Flat bags used as Garbage and hazardous (e.g. medical waste, chemicals etc.) waste liners.

  1. i) Hazardous waste liners are exempted so long as they are legibly and permanently labelled and color-coded and are incinerated together with the waste.
  2. ii) Garbage liners are also exempted on condition that they are clearly labelled and have demonstrated effective and efficient Extended Producer/User Responsibility and/or effective Take Back Schemes. The liners will NOT be dumped together with the waste but will be emptied and reused or recycled by licensed waste collectors and transporters.

Category 4: Duty Free shop bags

Since duty free shops at airports are considered to be outside the Kenyan territory, bags used at this point are not affected by the ban. However, any traveller coming into Kenya with duty free bags shall be required to leave the bags at the entry points. 


Any person who contravenes the Notice shall be liable to:

  1. a fine of not less than Kenya Shillings two million (Kshs. 2,000,000) (approximately US$ 19,500) and not more than Kenya Shillings four million (Kshs. 4,000,000) (approximately US$ 39,000); or
  2. imprisonment of not less than one year and not more than four years; or
  3. to both fine and imprisonment.

It is however unclear whether this penalty is applicable to both individual users and manufacturers.

In the meantime, Kenyans are encouraged to use the following alternatives in place of the banned plastic bags:

  1. All bags made from non-plastic materials e.g. jute/sisal, paper, cloth, papyrus;
  2. Woven polypropylene plastic bags (gunny bags);
  3. Non-woven polypropylene plastic bags (cloth-like bags);
  4. Laminated polypropylene bags;
  5. Polyolefin fibre bags; and
  6. 100% biodegradable bags (starch and cassava bags)

The NEMA clarifications on the plastic carrier bags ban may be assessed here.

Please contact us at should you require further information.

Authors: Brenda Vilita

                 Lorna Mbatia