Firms race against time to dispose of single-use bottles

Friday December 20 2019

Plastics

Plastic cutlery. PHOTO | FILE  

BEN MUNEZA
By BEN MUNEZA
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Companies and consumers of products packaged in single-use bottles are racing against time to comply with the law requiring them to discard products.

Dealers are expected to have emptied their stock by end of this year in order to comply with the three-month deadline required by the law, which was passed in September. However, industries are expected to comply within the next two years.

According to officials at Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), some dealers stopped production of such products immediately the law was enacted.

The affected products disposable spoons, plates, straws and bottles, which are commonly used at restaurants for takeaway meals and public functions such as weddings Early next year, consumers are likely to dig deeper into their pockets as restaurants resort to using degradable packing materials that are relatively expensive.

“Plastic materials offer cheaper and comfortable options, but the truth is they are harmful to nature. Other options are expensive, and that will have a bearing effect on the cost of drinks restaurants offer,” said Twizeye Emmanuel, a logistics officer at JAVA House.

Some big firms that recently upgraded their production lines of single use bottles say they will run into losses because the law set in when they had just invested and cannot recoup in the next two years.

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Sources at some companies and industry have warned that the affected firms are also likely to send employees home immediately production stops.

“Our position is that we are not going to comment about this law,” said Aline Batamuriza, head of corporate affairs at Bralirwa.

Financial losses

However, sources at Bralirwa, the largest brewer and producer of a wide of soft drinks and Sulfo Industries Ltd, a water bottling company, said there will big financial losses because current infrastructure cannot be converted to the production of products acceptable to the regulator.

For instance, Bralirwa’s bottles are barely three years old on the market and officials say the market responded positively to the product which is of recent fetching good revenues, thanks to Rwanda-Uganda border closures that killed competition from bottlers in Kampala.

“Brailrwa will lose money because of long term purchases of raw material since our sodas do not last beyond three months... But the laid infrastructure will be rendered redundant,” an officer at the company said preferring not to be named because the official is not authourised to speak for the company.

Investment in new production line and upgrade of the brewer’s capacity pushed its debts to Rwf42.2 billion as of December 2017. In April, Bralirwa reported that et debt increased to Rwf47.7 billion mainly due to investment in local production of associated Heineken.

At Sulfo Industries, sources told Rwanda Today the law came hot on the heels of a huge investment in production line for bottle for its 1.5 litre water.

“The investment we made is huge and we have made nothing out of it. It is a recent investment.

Recycling is equally expensive, besides there are no guarantees all waste will be collected. “We fully appreciate the essence of the law. Conservation of the environment is essential for us all. We are a business for the future.

The future should be protected. Single use plastics are not good for environment,” said an official at the company’s marketing department. To cushion the company against being caught off guard and making good of the two-year grace period, sources say Sulfo intends to reduce the thickness of the bottle, which will result in reduction of the cost of raw material and garbage weight.

In addition, the company plans to put in place steel water bottles that will cost Rwf5,000 where a client will make a one off investment and only for a refill.

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