Rwanda: Law Against Single-Use Plastics Pending Cabinet Approval

23 September 2018

The Ministry of Environment has tabled a draft law which seeks to ban single-use plastics in Rwanda to cabinet, Sunday Times has established.

The plastics that will be affected by the new law include some plastic bags, which were not affected by the 2008 legislation as well as straws, utensils and some plastic cups. Plastic bottles could fall victim of the proposed law, according to officials.

Environment Minister Vincent Biruta told Sunday Times that consultations were made with several stakeholders and sensitization on the possible ban of single-use plastics in Rwanda. Many people are 'positive' about this move to protect the seas and environment from plastic pollution, he says.

"The new law was drafted on single-use plastics and submitted to the cabinet for consideration before it is sent to parliament for further scrutiny. In the new law, we seek to ban some plastics such as straws, drink stirrers, disposable cups, plates and other cutleries," Biruta said.

"Right now we are doing more senstisation among all stakeholders, especially the private sector to find other alternatives for these environmental depleting plastics." He added.

If Rwanda introduces the law against single-use plastics, it will be the second country in Africa, after Seychelles to restrict the use of single-use plastics.

In June 2018, Seychelles banned the importation of single-use plastic straws and retailers were been given up to January 2019 to use their existing stock, according to Earthday.org.

Canada, USA, India, Costa Rica, Greece and Great Britain among other European countries have taken the lead in banning single-use plastics.

An estimated 13 million tonnes of plastic waste end up in the world's oceans each year. By 2050, it is estimated that there will be more plastics than fish in the oceans.

Most plastics are made from fossil fuels like crude oil, which contributes to climate change and estimates for the time it takes plastics to break down range from 450 years to never.

Plastic pollution is a big threat to world waters and marine life, as well as negatively impacting food chain (especially seafood) and the public health.

In 2008, Rwanda enacted a law on importing, producing, use or sell plastic bags.

The introduction of a draft law against single-use plastics will go a long way in cementing Rwanda's "deliberate push" to preserve the environment, said Faustin Munyazikwiye, Deputy Director General of Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA).

"Plastic bags are in category one of the plastics we want banned in Rwanda. Category two will include single-use plastics such as disposable folks, spoons, plates and all that. Category three will come at a later stage and that includes the plastics we don't have alternatives for, right now such as some bottles among other selected packaging materials." Munyazikwiye explained.

He noted that for those plastics, which will not be directly affected by the proposed law, will be subjected to sensitization and discouragement, if necessary until alternatives are established.

"Some single-use plastics will be discouraged gradually such as plastic bottles and we will ask the private sector to find alternatives. Some industries have begun research on possible alternatives for the single use plastics that are to be affected by the draft law." He said.

Last May, the Ministry of Environment and its affiliated agencies like REMA announced that they would no longer be using disposable plastics, including the traditional single-use water bottles.

The institutions have since installed water dispensers and replaced bottles with glasses and cups in offices and during meetings. They also challenged other institutions to follow suit.

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