Single-use plastics: Environmentalists seek solutions for imported goods

Impounded single use plastics from shops in Kigali in 2022. Photo: File.

As Rwanda continues with its ambitious efforts to phase out single-use plastics, environmentalists have pointed out some key challenges, one of which is imported goods packaged in single-use plastics.

ALSO READ: No extension of grace period for single-use plastics – Rema

In 2019, the country’s parliament passed a law prohibiting the manufacture, importation, use and sale of single-use plastic items in Rwanda, including plastic bags, cups, straws, coffee stirrers, soda and water bottles, and most food packaging materials.

Since then, both the private and public sectors have been working to implement the law through activities including the establishment of companies that manufacture alternative packaging materials, as well as monitoring to stop the illegal importation of single-use plastics.

Information from Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) shows that such measures have yielded good results including the cleanliness of the country’s cities, reduction of solid waste and so on, but points out that there is a need to get a solution for better management of imported goods that come packaged in single use plastics.

“At present, large quantities of plastic wastes are being generated by imported goods packaged in single-use plastic materials yet importers are not contributing to their plastic wastes management,” said Juliet Kabera, REMA Director General.

Though the law specifies that such goods are subject to an environmental levy, currently the environmental levy is not in place.

ALSO READ: 500 tonnes of single-use plastics to be recycled

In addition to that, REMA officials say challenges of illegal transboundary movement of plastic carry bags and single-use plastics and misuse of exceptional authorisation by companies.

REMA officials say they are continuing to carry out various activities in line with implementing the country’s efforts against single-use plastics. The activities include routine inspection to ascertain the compliance of business owners, joint inspections with other stakeholders around the country, and target inspection whenever there is information.

They also carry out capacity building of the public and private sector for management of plastic wastes and initiation of collaboration among stakeholders.

ALSO READ: House passes bill to ban single-use plastics

Abias Maniragaba, an Environmental Health expert told The New Times that he expects the phasing out of single use plastics to be progressive, involving activities aimed at teaching people to use alternative material as well as providing incentives to factories that manufacture such.

He noted that though there are challenges for example illegal importation of single use plastics, he noted that Rwanda is doing well in managing single use plastics as compared to many countries.

“I can say we are doing well, but there are challenges to address,” he noted, before adding that the way forward would be easier if the neighbouring countries also start to fight the use of single-use plastics.



Hudson Kuteesa

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *