In Kenya, road verges are commonly covered with discarded plastic bags and trees festooned with them, they block drains and are ingested by animals, including livestock such as cows and goats.
Environmentalists say the damage is worse still at sea where island-sized gyres of garbage float about and fish starve to death, their stomachs filled with plastic waste.
The ban was first announced in February but suspended for six months to allow Kenyan consumers and shopkeepers to adjust to the new rules.
Kenya's National Environment Management Agency (NEMA) took out ads in newspapers clarifying that while plastic carrier bags were banned, neither industrial manufacturers producing plastic-wrapped goods nor users of plastic bin liners will fall foul of the law.
The Retail Trade Association of Kenya said supermarket chains plan to provide re-useable, eco-friendly bags at a small price.'We are subsidising the cost for the benefit of the consumer,' said Willy Kimani, director of the trade group and an executive at the Naivas supermarket chain.
UNEP head Erik Solheim greeted the ban as 'a huge, important step' to ending plastic pollution.Opposition candidate Raila Odinga was quick to claim the vote was rigged and protests started in Nairobi after the result was announced.