Rwanda: Firms Should Be Given More Time to Phase Out Single Use Plastics - MPs

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(file photo)
19 February 2019

Members of Parliament yesterday approved the basis of the law banning single use plastics albeit with some concerns.

Early last month the cabinet approved a draft law banning single use plastics as part of the efforts to protect the environment from threats related to non-degradable materials.

Under the draft law, government has proposed to give a two year grace period for companies to stop manufacturing single use plastics.

Minister for Environment Dr Vincent Biruta addresses parliament yesterday. Sam Ngendahimana.

MPs have challenged this proposal, requesting the government to give the investors more period as well assurance that the country will not face a shortage packaging material.

"The law would be clear and important but if the company has secured a deal to do business and had a ten year business plan and you give them a grace period of two years, what is the basis of this and how do you think they are ready to cope with this," MP Theogene Munyangeyo questioned.

Members of the lower chamber were yesterday deliberating on a basis of the law on single-use relating to prohibition of manufacturing, use, and sale of single use plastic items.

Appearing before the plenary session to defend the proposal by government, the Minister for Environment Dr. Vincent Biruta, said that most of the single use plastics on the market can be replaced.

Among the single single-use plastics on the Rwandan market include plastic bags, straws, coffee stirrers, soda and water bottles and most food packaging materials.

According to MP Anita Mutesi, the law is good in terms of ensuring the protection of the environment but needs deeper research and consultations with all stakeholders.

"I support the proposal of the law but I am worried about the two year grace period, is there any research of how we will cope with the issue if we banned them" she wondered

MP Ignatienne Nyirarukundo, said there is more to worry about the ban as it comes almost eleven years since the government outlawed the use of plastic bags, which has sustained the shortage of packaging materials.

"There were plans for alternatives when we banned plastic bags, but 10 years down the road there seem to be no alternative as expected, how sure are we that there will be packaging alternative once we ban single-use plastics," she said.

She added: "Locally made products are expensive because of (expensive) packaging (material) and I want to hear what will happen if we keep buying such materials which are expensive," she added.

The law relating to the prohibition of manufacturing, importation, use and sale of polythene bags in the country was adopted in 2008 but is limited to the prohibition of polythene bags, meaning it does not cover other types of plastics which are also harmful to the environment

Establish the law first

Biruta told the MPs that the law was in the interest of the general public, arguing that despite consultations with stakeholders such as traders and industrialists there will always be some resistance.

"We can't establish a law basing on traders business plan," he said.

He added: "We have to establish the law first and engage traders to be ready and adopt it. We are making laws for the interest of many, we will also engage them (dealers) to see how they can't count more losses."

The draft law will be scrutinised in the commission for agriculture livestock and environment before it is sent to the plenary.

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