Rwanda on course to phase out single-use plastics

Rwanda on course to phase out single-use plastics

The government will give a grace period for industries and dealers to phase out making or selling single-use plastics once a law to ban them is gazetted, the Minister for Environment has said.

Dr Vincent Biruta was addressing journalists at a post-cabinet press briefing yesterday.

He told The New Times in a separate interview that the draft law relating to prohibition of manufacturing, use, and sale of single-use plastic items gives a grace period of three months for dealers to stop selling the products while industries are given a grace period of two years to stop making the products.

But importation of single-use plastics will not be possible once the law is gazetted, which means that only dealers and manufacturers in the country will only have the grace periods to finish using whatever will be in their stocks, the minister said.

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 of the environment.

The draft law 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.

Biruta told journalists at the post-cabinet press briefing that Rwandans are now encouraged to consider alternatives to single-use plastics.

“There are utensils we can ban and move on without a problem and there are those that we can replace with non-plastic utensils,” he said, explaining that campaigns to sensitise citizens about alternatives to use of plastics will be initiated.

He added that additional laws will be enacted to discourage use of plastics, such as those that will charge more money for plastic users and the proceeds will be used to support environment promotion initiatives.

The minister had told this newspaper in an earlier interview yesterday morning that many single-use plastics in use weren’t necessary.

“They should have alternatives,” he said, encouraging Rwandans to drop the habit of using plastic utensils.

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 said 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 the 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.

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.