The impending ban on single use plastics could hurt start-ups financially, with some calling on the government to provide affordable alternatives for packaging.
The call came shortly after the government tabled a draft law before the Lower House of Parliament that seeks to ban disposable plastic materials, which environmentalists say are pollutant, do not decompose and prevent the spread of oxygen in soil.
The draft law, currently under discussions at the committee level, if signed into law will see the manufacture or imports of single-used plastic materials banned.
However, although manufacturers of plastic materials especially straws and bottles will be given a two-year period to stop production.
Should the law come into force, beverage companies are expected to suffer the most.
Claudine Mukandayisenga, the general manager of Exalto Ltd, a two year old company that manufactures juice and wine from sugarcane, has been buying thousands of bottles (250ml and 500ml) from local and regional traders, but has voiced concern about her company’s future if the ban comes into effect.
“We are very worried because it means we will have to buy glass bottles to package our juices and wines. We have been buying a single used plastic bottle at Rwf150 while glass bottles will cost more than Rwf800 each and this will greatly affect our production,” said Ms Mukandayisenga. She added that many bottle manufacturers might be forced to double their costs as soon as the ban comes into force and it will be up to the government to save small capital firms like hers which are unable to buy and store bottles in bulk.
“We want the government to open factories that will manufacture glass bottles here in Rwanda to reduce the cost of imports and taxes, otherwise small companies like ours are likely to suffer, because we can’t buy those bottles in big quantities,” said Ms Mukandayisenga.
Discussing the Bill in parliament, legislators questioned Environment Minister Vincent Biruta on the exit strategies that were being considered to avoid a supply gap that could arise if the ban is effected.
The MPs also cited the existing challenges associated with the previous ban on polythene bags.
Plastic materials that will be banned include plastic water bottles, disposables straws, plates, spoons and tumblers. But, single use plastics used in hospitals like blood containers, tubes and syringes will not be affected.