30 May 2018

Rwanda: Support Environment Ministry in the War on Plastic Pollution

Photo: Nadege Imbabazi/New Times
Minister for Environment Vincent Biruta addresses participants during the launch of the National Environment Week, as Minister for Trade and Industry, Vincent Munyeshyaka (centre) and PSF CEO Steven Ruzibiza look on.

Rwanda has not banned single-use plastics yet. But there is strong indication that, ten years after the country imposed a largely successful ban on polythene bags, the next course action is outlawing manufacture, importation, sale and use of single-use plastic materials.

The list includes water bottles, disposable cutleries, coffee cups, straws, among others.

The Ministry of Environment and its affiliated agencies are already championing the effort to embrace alternatives to single-use plastics, by for instance resorting to use of glasses or cups, instead of disposable cups, and water dispensers instead of water bottles in offices.

We applaud the ministry and its line agencies for leading by example and urge other public and private institutions to follow suit.

Individuals can also take a cue from these institutions on desisting from using single-use plastic products. These materials are deadly for marine life, thereby posing a threat to food security, and block waterways and drainage systems.

We do not need to wait for relevant laws to be in place so we can do the right thing - for not only our own sake but future generations as well.

World over humans have and continue to destroy the environment at an alarming rate, putting all of us at risk. The destructive rains that have hit east Africa, including Rwanda, in recent days are part of the consequences. More serious consequences await us if we don't change course.

Now, we do not have to wait for everyone else around the world to start doing their bit for us to do the right thing.

For the last ten years, Rwandans have demonstrated strong leadership in the fight against plastic bags and continue to do so on other fronts designed to protect the environment, including efforts to prevent further degradation of the ozone layer.

In the same spirit, each one of us, at an institutional and individual level, can change our habits with view to ultimately get rid single-use plastic products.

The private sector has a significant role to play in this, especially by devising alternatives to single-use plastics. Best practices elsewhere will be key. Environmental degradation is a global concern and many countries around the world are going through the same transitions.

Let's all join our environment watchdogs in the war on plastic pollution.

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