29/08/2017 13:43 SAST | Updated 29/08/2017 13:45 SAST

Jail Time Or Hefty Fine For Using, Producing Or Selling Plastic Bags In Kenya

The new ruling is the most severe in the world.

Plastic bag
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Plastic bag

In one of the most drastic anti-pollution rulings made on the planet, Kenya has made it illegal to own, produce, or sell any form of plastic bags, The Guardian reported.

So serious are authorities that if you are found committing any plastic bag-related offence, you could face imprisonment, or a fine of over R500,000.

Habib El-Habr, an expert on marine litter working with the UN environment programme in Kenya, said it takes 500 to 1000 years for a plastic bag to break down.

"If we continue like this, by 2050, we will have more plastic in the ocean than fish," said El-Habr said.

Kenya's Daily Nation reports on Tuesday that most shoppers have embraced the new ruling. In many parts of the country, shoppers were seen carrying environment-friendly alternatives such as the non-woven carrier bags and various types of baskets as the ban took effect Monday.

Plastic rubbish bags have also been banned. In Nairobi, a number of butcheries the Nation visited have also been forced to switch to grease-proof paper for wrapping meat, with vendors now opting for khaki paper bags.

But a lot of Kenyans aren't happy about the ruling. Samuel Matonda, spokesman for the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, said it would cost 60,000 jobs and force 176 manufacturers to close.

"The knock-on effects will be very severe," Matonda said. "It will even affect the women who sell vegetables in the market – how will their customers carry their shopping home?"