29 January 2019

Rwanda Moves Closer to Banning Single Use Plastics

Photo: Benson Momanyi/Daily Nation
Plastic bag vendors (file photo).

A cabinet meeting on Monday approved a draft law that will ban the single use of plastics, a move that is likely to transform the way of life in the country towards better protection for the environment.

In a cabinet meeting, the government approved a draft law relating to prohibition of manufacturing, use, and sale of single use plastic items, which now awaits deeper discussions in Parliament before it can be passed into law.

Single-use plastics are used only once before they are thrown away or recycled, which pollutes the environment at a very fast rate.

Among others, single-use plastics are items such as plastic bags, straws, coffee stirrers, soda and water bottles and most food packaging materials.

The minister for Environment, Dr. Vincent Biruta, told The New Times Tuesday morning that Rwandans are now encouraged to consider alternatives to single use plastics.

"Many of these things are really not needed and they should have alternatives," he said in a brief telephone interview.

Asked about what citizens will do now that the use of the plastics in frequent occasions like drinking or eating is likely to be banned, the minister said that it's time to go back to their roots and use non-plastic utensils.

"What did you use before the advent of these plastic straws to drink your local beer? Many of the things you are using today have got alternatives" he asked teasingly as he emphasised the need to use alternative utensils to plastics.

In the past, Rwandans would use many wooden objects in their daily lives, from wooden straws for drinking and wooden plates and spoons to wooden cups and buckets.

The Government of Rwanda has made the protection of environment a big priority and the use of plastic bags has already been banned for many years in the country.

Rwanda's environmental protection policies have made it one of the cleanest countries in the world and have attracted many tourists who prefer destinations that give value to ecosystems.

Tabled by the Ministry of Environment, the draft law banning single use plastics is likely to affect some plastic bags that were previously not banned under current laws, as well as major single use plastic utensils such as straws, cups, and bottles among others.

Minister Biruta told The New Times in September last year that consultations were made with several stakeholders about the need to ban single-use plastics and many of them had shown interest in the initiative.

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