Nairobi — President William Ruto has urged countries across the world to explore alternatives to use of plastic bags as part of efforts to tackle pollution.
He asked producers and innovators to rethink plastic products and packaging to reflect the principles of reuse, refill and repair.
President Ruto argued that there was need to explore alternative options such as non-plastic substitutes, alternative plastics and plastic products that do not have negative environmental, health and social impacts.
“I invite innovators to come and invest in Africa because the continent has natural resources that can be used for planet-friendly alternatives,” said Dr Ruto.
This, President Ruto said, was an opportunity for African plastic-alternative industries to become market leaders and drive economic growth and transformation on the continent.
President Ruto spoke at the United Nations office in Gigiri, Nairobi, during the opening of the third session of the inter-governmental negotiating committee on ending plastic pollution.
The Head of State, at the same time, said the world should follow Kenya’s example by banning plastic paper bags in order to tackle pollution.
President Ruto said Kenya has demonstrated its commitment to ending plastic pollution.
He maintained that the ban on the manufacture and use of polythene bags in 2027 was a clear demonstration that Kenya is keen to ending plastic pollution.
“We demonstrated this commitment with the ban on the manufacture and use of polythene bags in 2017, followed closely in 2020 with a ban on single-use plastics in protected areas such as national parks, forests and beaches,” said President Ruto.
The Head of State further noted that in July 2022, Kenya enacted the Sustainable Waste Management Act which made Kenya the first in the world to subject all products, including plastics, to Extended Producer Responsibility.
“We know this is not enough and we are ready to play our part in the elimination of plastic pollution,” said President Ruto.
The President also expressed concern that the numbers on plastic pollution explain the necessity of working together and with tremendous purpose and urgency.
He said every year, more than 400 millions tonnes of plastic waste are produced globally, saying 23 million tonnes find their way into rivers, lakes and oceans, and less than 10 per cent is recycled.
Dr Ruto noted that across the world, 46 per cent of plastic waste is landfilled, 22 per cent is mismanaged and becomes litter, while 17 per cent is incinerated.
“If we hold our laurels and do nothing, we will produce more than a billion tonnes of plastic by 2060,” said President Ruto.
He emphasized that such kind of pollution on the environment is unacceptable and is essentially an existential to life, human and otherwise, on earth.
“This is the time to stop this and you are the negotiators who will make it happen,” he said.
To deal with plastic pollution, President Ruto argued that humanity must change the way they consume, produce and how they throw away their waste.
“This is the reality of our world. Change is inevitable. This treaty, this instrument that we are working on, is the first domino in this change. Let us bring it home. Let the change begin,” said President Ruto.
UNEP chairman Amb Meza Cuadra said collective responsibility remains key to alternative solution to use of plastic bags.
“We must work together to explore alternatives to the use of plastic bags if we are to address the problem of pollution, ” said Mr Cuada.
He said the Nairobi meeting must make substantive resolutions to solve the problem of the use of plastic bags ahead of 2024 deadline on the matter.
UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said there was need for a comprehensive approach in tackling the problem of plastic use from its product to packaging.
“We must embrace the spirit of cooperation to achieve positive results by 2024,” said Ms Andersen.