Thursday, November 30, 2006

NARC-otics in a Plastic Bag

The NARC government has come up with a new scheme to control the plastic bags that are polluting our environment. The Nation reports that the Kenya Bureau of Standards will revise regulations to increase the thickness of plastic bags. The price of these bags will more than double in mid-January. One might reasonably expect that this will reduce the public's appetite for these bags. However, one would be wrong.

In a typically self-defeating move, the cost will only be passed on "indirectly" to the consumer. This essentially means that commodity prices will be marked up to reflect the increased cost of the plastic bags.

Instead of asking shoppers to pay directly for the bags when and if they want them, the government has chosen to charge all consumers regardless of whether or not they make the environmentally sound decision to reject the bags. This is unlikely to result in fewer people asking for the bags at the supermarket counter. For that to happen, consumers who make environmentally foolish choices would need to bear the full cost of those choices, not share the burden with those who chose otherwise.

A direct, and thus voluntary, payment for these bags would automatically result in fewer plastic bags coming out of the shops and even fewer ending up in the garbage dumps. After all, one is unlikely to throw away something that he/she has paid good money for.

An involuntary charge has the effect of subsidising bad behaviour and punishing responsible choices. And this at a cost of 2000 badly needed jobs. Way to go Kivutha Kibwana.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

again our leaders don't put thought process into decision making. Ever since I moved to europe, where plastic bags in supermarkets cost, I am more aware and most times will carry my own life bag or just a shopping bag with me to the shops...but imposing the cost on ALL shoppers, this really does nothing but upset people. If they want to control the plastic bags, as you said, charge the customer independently of everything else, let them make a decision and slowly people will start bringing their own bags to the shops...