Kenya in global spotlight over plastic waste crime

Tuesday, September 1st, 2020 00:04 | By
Plastic waste management.

Bernard Gitau @benagitau

Kenya could be caught in the eye of a storm as Interpol reports a sharp rise in plastic waste crime globally.

The Strategic Analysis Report on emerging criminal trends in the global plastic waste market since January 2018, indicates that there has been a considerable increase in illegal waste shipments, primarily rerouted to South-East Asia and Africa via multiple transit countries.

“Difficulties in treating and monitoring the plastic waste surplus in both export and import countries have opened doors for opportunistic crime in the plastic waste sector, both in terms of illegal trade and of illegal waste treatment,” part of the report reads.

“Several countries have observed indicators and/or collected evidence of the involvement of organised criminal groups (OCGs) in some cases of illegal trade and management of plastic waste,” the Interpol report added.

 The report also stated some African countries already receive large quantities of plastic material “soon-to-be waste”, embedded in illegally imported e-waste.

 Though the report showed little plastic organised crime in Africa, it revealed that African countries, particularly West African countries, face a very significant trafficking in electronic and vehicle-related waste into their countries.

 “This trafficking acts as a carrier of plastic soon-to-be waste imports, as most electronic and electric products such as fridges, computers and auto spare parts are partly composed of plastic,” adds the report.

Interpol indicated plastic compounds associated with electronic waste are of particular concern, as they are known to be hazardous due for example to heavy metals in flame-retardants.

 “The three African countries that have reported data to Interpol have indicated that this illicit activity is driven by gaps in legal frameworks to regulate waste management in their countries, including the lack of criminalisation of such acts,” 

The report comes as the country continues to face the challenge of plastic pollution with Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) revealing that the country imports a total of 600,000 tonnes annually but only recycles 43,000 tonnes.

Plastic bag

 Though the government imposed the single use plastic bag ban in 2017, continuous use of PET plastic bottles termed as the “King of trash” has emerged as the top polluter in water bodies and land.

 KAM has tried to combat the plastic pollution menace by putting together over 176 plastic bottles manufacturers under Petco Kenya to collect the products for recycling. 

But the Ministry of Environment indicates the KAM take-back-scheme has only 170 small PET plastic bottles in a country that has over 900 industries.

 The Ministry of Environment and KAM signed a Framework of Co-operation to sustainably manage plastic PET bottles on May 17, 2018 with clearly spelt out obligations for each party but plastic pollution and ineligible percentage of recycling being felt.

Due to the plastic bottles menace, President Uhuru Kenyatta issued a directive during last year’s World Environment Day banning the use of single plastics in protected areas.

 The ban came into effect on June 5, in National Parks, beaches, forests and conservation areas, which means visitors will no longer be able to carry plastic water bottles, cups, disposable plates, cutlery, or straws into protected areas.

 United Nation Environment Programme forecasts that, if no action is taken, the amount of plastics dumped into the ocean will triple by 2040, from 11 to 29 million tonnes per year.

 Kenya generates over 44,000 tonnes of electronic waste (e-waste) each year — items such as old laptops, phones, TV sets that end up polluting the environment.

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