The government’s proposal to restrict use of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, seeks to protect the environment, jobs and industrial growth.
However, business lobbyist are not happy with the restrictions placed on PET bottles saying they will affect their competitiveness in the region. PET bottles are the single most used material by beverage companies for packaging juices, sodas and water.
The restrictions will require offices to stop giving their workers bottled water, juice or dairy products packed in single use bottles.
Instead, the country’s environmental watchdog is encouraging offices to buy dispensers and multi-use glasses, as the country moved to phase out single-use plastics in the coming years.
“There is a global shift banning single use plastic straws, pet bottles, forks, plates and cups to protect the environment from degradation,” said Coleta Ruhamya director-general of Rwanda Environmental Authority (Rema).
While the country does not have current data on the number of plastic waste produced, one of the officials at a cleaning company estimated that out of 400 tonnes of solid waste collected daily, five per cent is plastic.
The volume of garbage has increased from 300 tonnes in 2016, posing a big challenge in the country as it exposes the population to health risks and environmental degradation.
“We have recycling industries, but they do not have the capacity to recycle all the plastics generated in the country,” said Rema’s director-general, adding that the country has six plastic recycling plants.
The proposed restrictions and pending ban has caused an uproar among the business community who say their beverages sales will take a huge hit in a competitive market where regional players have an upper hand on some products.
According to the East Africa Community Common Market Protocol, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and South Sudan are allowed to sell in the Rwandan market without discrimination.
The four countries are silent on banning single use plastics, which gives them a competitive edge against Rwandan products.
The Kenya government shelved a plan to phase out PET use, after the country’s manufacturering association committed to get involved in collecting and disposal of the materials.
Rwanda’s business community says this leaves the country’s beverage manufacturers such as Amazi ya Huye, Inyange and Urwibutso Nyirangarama exposed to competitive products from the region, which are not subjected to the domestic environmental law.
Globally, nearly one million plastic beverage bottles are sold every minute.