Rwanda adopts draft law to ban single-use plastics

Sunday February 3 2019

Plastic cutlery.

Plastic cutlery. Rwanda seeks to prohibit the manufacture, use and sale of single-use plastics. PHOTO | AFP 

IVAN R. MUGISHA
By IVAN R. MUGISHA
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Rwanda's Cabinet last week adopted a draft law seeking to prohibit the manufacture, use and sale of single-use plastics, a move that is expected to affect the operations of importers and local manufacturers.

The passage of the draft came ahead of the February 1 EAC Summit, in which the region’s heads of state were expected to assent to the EAC Polythene Materials Control Bill, 2018, which would see the region adopt a common framework on the elimination of the use of plastics.

The law seeks a ban on plastic water bottles, disposables straws, plates, spoons, tumblers and other products. Once passed by the legislature, it will complement another law that has existed since 2008 illegalising the use of non-biodegradable polythene bags.

“The new law will impose a ban on disposable plastic materials, and the government will be campaigning for usage of recyclable and non-pollutant disposables,” said Minister for Environment Vincent Biruta.

Traders and industries that rely on plastics have called on the government to ensure that policies are in place to promote alternative products.

“There is no doubt that companies that rely on plastics are going to be affected; they will definitely make losses, but they must adjust,” said Wenceslas Habamungu, the managing director of Ecoplastic Rwanda, a recycling company.

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Rwanda has been successful in curbing the use of plastic bags through constant police operations at border posts and airports to monitor and check luggage for banned polythene.

In 2017, Kenya enacted the world’s toughest law against disposable plastic bags, punishing anyone making, selling or importing plastic bags with up to four years in prison or up to $40,000 in fines.

Tanzania announced in 2015 that it would pass a law that banned the use of plastic bags, but to date the move is still facing multiple challenges from the country’s manufacturing sector.

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