Taking a trip to Kenya? Leave you plastic bags at home or face a $40,000 fine with up to 4 years in prison! Seems a little over the top? Two years ago, the Kenyans suddenly enacted the world’s toughest ban against single-use plastic bags. According to the Kenyans, “A sudden ban is easier to enforce than trying to collect tax or a fee, because there is no incentive to bribe (your way out of it).”
Drowning in Plastic
According to Pamela Constable of the Washington Post, just yesterday Pakistan suddenly banned all single-use polyethylene bags from their capital, Islamabad. Officials estimate that the city of about 1.5 million people produced and discarded 55 billion plastic bags a year. The bags ended up in parks and vacant lots, clogging sewers and drains, eaten by goats and dogs, and ultimately polluting canals and streams. Sound familiar?
“Something We have to Do!”
According to Malik Amin Aslam of the Ministry of Climate Change, which is spearheading the effort, “This is something we have to do. You cannot burn, bury, reuse, or recycle these bags.” This is part of a larger Green Initiative that Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan is pushing. Last year it began with a program to plant 10 billion trees to combat deforestation. The fines in Pakistan won’t be as stiff as Kenya, but will certainly get everyone’s attention: $31 for using one, $63 for selling one, and $31,000 for manufacturing plastic bags. Since the national per capita income is only $1,200 per year, these are still pretty hefty penalties.
Time to Join the Parade
Over 40 countries have now either banned or taxed single-use plastic bags. Interestingly, Americans have yet to do so. We evidently think as a country that we can continue to use them without consequence, even though the “urban tumbleweeds” are right there blowing across our roads, hanging in our trees, and raggedly splayed out on our fences. China stopped taking plastic garbage from the US two years ago. Now, South East Asia is clamping down. Today, it’s our problem. Like the Pakistani Minister says, “You can’t burn, bury, recycle, or re-use them.” Why are we disregarding what other countries already know and are taking action on?
But, where will they Work?
Of course, the manufacturers of plastic bags in Pakistan have protested, citing layoffs of a half-million people. The Ministry is meeting with them to discover how the factories that produce plastic bags can be converted to produce other goods. Perhaps the message to business is why wait ‘til there’s a crisis and an outcry that forces change, like Kenya and Pakistan? Why not anticipate this mega-trend and make moves now to produce alternatives? Why not support fledgling companies who are solving this problem? This is a huge financial opportunity! There’s obviously a market for alternatives with 40 countries now on board. And what about laborers? These new companies will need that labor. The way we see it, producers of single-use plastic bags must change over now or get outlawed and out-sold by their competition that is doing so.
Many thanks to Kenya and Pakistan for showing the world “a brand new bag!”
Who We Are
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.
Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.
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