Thursday, February 24, 2005
Awash in plastic
With millions of plastic bags choking rivers and ravines, a UN agency has asked the Kenyan government to tax or ban plastic shopping bags. A good thing, but there are a few other angles to the story. When I was in Nairobi, plastic bags were the way everyone carried important belongings. In a city sometimes called Nairobbery because of the high crime rate, a backpack or shoulder bag was almost an advertisement of the potential valuables within. A bag from Uchumi or Nakumatt -- local supermarkets -- offered a much more secure way to tote a mobile phone or a book or anything street thieves might covet. And, of course, providing plumbing to the 1.5 million people who live in the city's mud hut neighborhoods would immediately cut back on the use of plastic bags as 'flying toilets.'