“Our goal as a firm is to have an impact on the environment by reducing the effects of single-use plastic and to educate current and future generations in Africa and beyond,” said Rosa Nduati-Mutero, a partner in A&K’s Corporate department.
“This initiative provides a platform to spark and encourage conversations around the dangers of single-use plastic to our environment and to increase public awareness of the impact of plastic pollution as a means to change people’s daily habits by eliminating and reducing waste from single-use plastic products.”
The campaign by A&K and ALN, an alliance of leading law firms in Africa founded by A&K, coincides with the historic decision by the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) in Nairobi last week to end plastic pollution and forge a legally binding global plastics agreement by 2024.
A&K and ALN have played a major role in drafting proposed legislation to strengthen laws at a regional level to ban certain single-use plastics (SUPs) for adoption by the East African Community (EAC) Legislative Assembly. A&K has also provided pro bono legal services to the Flipflopi Project campaign which is driving a regional education campaign to recycle and re-use plastic and to end single-use plastic.
The campaign draws its name from the Flipflopi, a traditional dhow built on the island of Lamu in 2017 from 100% recycled plastic and covered in 30 000 multicoloured flip flops (rubber sandals).
Since then, the vessel has travelled over 4 000km around East Africa’s coastline and Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa.
Karim Anjarwalla, A&K’s Managing Partner, serves on the Flipflopi advisory board and A&K has also supported several of the vessel’s educational expeditions.
Rosa notes that 34 out of 54 African countries have already passed legislation banning some SUPs. Kenya banned plastic carrier bags in 2017, followed by further bans on certain SUPs in 2020. Rwanda banned plastic bags in 2004 while Tanzania banned plastic carrier bags and certain plastic sachets and packaging in 2018.
However, Rosa says challenges have included inconsistent enforcement of the bans and a lack of available, affordable and accessible (non-toxic) alternatives.
This is one of the reasons A&K and ALN have helped to draft framework legislation for the wider EAC community made up of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.
The EAC Draft SUP Bill goes further by proposing a complete ban on the manufacture, sale and importation of SUP cutlery, plates, cups, cotton buds, straws, stirrers, wet wipes, carrier bags, balloons, food containers and sweet wrappers.
The draft SUP Bill also proposes to shift the cost of awareness-raising measures and waste onto manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers, and carves out certain SUPs that are exempted but whose use is subject to restrictions and conditions.
Member states would be required to achieve measurable quantitative reductions in the consumption of SUPs and take steps towards public awareness campaigns that engage and educate local communities on plastic waste.
This article was first published by Africa Legal.