Environment minister Kalonzo Musyoka has launched biodegradable shopping bags at the Nakumatt supermarket chain, the East African Standard reported.

"Our country is being littered with non-degradable substances," said Kalonzo. The bags are specially treated with additives, which make them decompose.

Kalonzo said the government had contemplated banning the use of plastic bags but was prevailed upon by the Kenya Association of Manufacturers to shelve the decision because about 20,000 people would lose their jobs.

The minister said the use of biodegradable shopping bags would reduce pollution. He challenged the baking industry to change the packages of their products, saying the sector was among the biggest contributors to the plastic bag-induced pollution.
Nakumatt's operations director T. Ramamurthy described the launch of the new product as timely and a great move towards environmental protection. "Nakumatt has chosen to support the world environment programme by using the degradable bags for packing goods," he said.

The supermarket chain, he added, had introduced the new type of bags as part of its social responsibility. Nakumatt uses more than 30 million bags per year at a cost of over 40 million shillings (US$0.524m).