Since I last posted I am been busy travelling all over for work as per usual. This week I am in Ethiopia, but last week I was working in Kenya. 

It was great to go there after they banned the plastic bags in 2017. The ban has been in place for over a year now, and although you still see the streets littered with plastic bottles, I really did not see any plastic bags.

This may be due to the fines being so severe; up to four years’ imprisonment or fines of $40,000 for anyone producing, selling – or even just carrying – a plastic bag!

My friend who lives in Kenya told me how positive the ban has been received. Of course, at first she wondered how she would manage, but she has adapted and loves the fact that the streets are much cleaner. She is proud of her country, and rightly so. I find it perpetually embarrassing that developing countries can make such changes, when my own country (UK) can’t.

Whilst I was in Kenya, I met some of my colleagues from Rwanda. When I commented on how wonderful Kenya was to introduce the ban, they told me that their country was miles ahead. The Rwandan Government banned plastic bags ten years ago, and I have been told, you can tell and the ban has worked. They told me that when you arrive at the airport, they are very strict and confiscate any plastic bags.

In these instances, obviously strict control measures work well. However, at the same time, I was informed by another colleague from Rwanda that groups of the population still have plastic bags, they are just hidden! It is a risky strategy in Rwanda, but I am sure my colleague is right and you can buy the product on the black market.

Rwanda plastic bags

Whilst one can not dispute that these strict bans have had a positive effect, it does highlight to me the importance of using a full intervention mix, such as the ones I use on my own projects. Yes, sometimes I look to control but usually I rely on voluntary behaviour change. Whenever I develop a project, I always ask my self these four questions:

1.      How can I support people to make the behaviour change? Are there services or products I can develop/give to support the change?

2.      Are there any changes I can make to the design of the physical environment to enable the behaviour change?

3.      What information can I give to encourage the behaviour change?

4.      How can I incentive or disincentivize the behaviour change? This is the one that incudes control mechanisms.  

Intervention mix

Only by utilising a full mix of interventions do I really believe behaviour change can be achieved.

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