No More Plastic Bags: What the Ban Means for Real Estate Sector


The ban on manufacturing, importation, and use of plastic bags in Kenya has not come as a surprise. Something needed to be done, and done fast as the destruction of the environment has since crossed both green and the red lines. The seriousness of pollution by polythene bags can be seen through the hefty punishment prescriptions for offenders who will violate the regulations. Anyone found in violation, that is, producing, selling or even using plastic bags will risk imprisonment of up to four years or fines of Ksh. 4 million. The ban which took effect on 28th August 2017, was gazetted on February 28, 2017, to tackle the huge challenge of solid waste in the country. It has been touted as the world’s toughest plastic bag ban.

So what implication does this ban have on the real estate sector? Well…

The main implication in the real estate sector as far the ban goes is the issue of management of solid waste within built environments. Estate managers and tenants are the hardest hit with the ban in the entire real estate fraternity. Polythene bags have been central to the handling of solid waste in households and its management within estates has always been a major headache. Cities like Nairobi and Mombasa have reached a tipping point with rapid increase population thanks to the rural-urban migration. This has been further complicated by the carefree attitude that majority of Kenyans embody. Consequently, the responsibility of keeping the environment clean has been abandoned to the few conservationists amidst us.

However, organized gated communities, mostly located in major cities and towns, used the carrier plastic bags to dispose of waste. This was convenient given that there isn't enough space within the residencies to deposit solid waste without the ‘secondary packaging’. So once ‘packaged’ in the traditional black carrier bags, they get to be transported to the designated dump site. This, by the way, is a big business that has created millionaires and supported thousands of livelihoods through gainful employment along the waste collection and disposal value chain.

Thus the ban has posed a new challenge for estate managers, tenants as well as the dealers in the waste management treadmill. The key question members of these groups are asking is: how will they hygienically and safely handle the solid waste from households? Already private garbage collectors have warned that waste management will be impossible if bin liners are on the list of banned plastic products. Under the umbrella of Waste and Environment Management Association of Kenya (WEMAK), they said Nairobi will be much dirtier without the liners.

But not quite. Kenya isn’t the first country to make such a move. It joins more than 40 other countries that have banned, partly banned or taxed single use plastic bags, including Rwanda, China, France, and Italy. So far these countries have been able to manage their waste without a major public health disaster. However, Kenya must be cautious in the short term as the alternative packaging options are being rolled out throughout the country.

So, what next for the real estate sector in view of the dispensation of the ban?

Already there are several alternative packaging solutions in the marketplace and this will solve the impending challenge of waste collection and disposal. The suitability of the existing options is underway and soon enough it will take root in all residencies around the country. In the long run, every stakeholder will appreciate the implementation of the ban as we will have cleaner built environments that will attract tenants. Some neighbourhoods in the past have had a difficult time in getting tenants due to dirty surroundings. This will surely change if the ban is implemented effectively and to the latter.

All said and done, it a welcomed move and should be embraced by all, not only players in the real estate sector. Let’s conserve our environment!


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