Rwanda becomes the first country in East Africa to issue a complete ban on all single-use plastics.
Retailers have three months to clear their stocks and find alternatives, while industrial users and producers of single-use plastics have a two-year deadline.
The ban affects all plastic carry bags and other single-use plastic items such as wrappers, plastic containers, bottles, straws, plastic cutlery, folders, and balloons. Plastic duty-free bags are not authorised to be brought into the country.
The country first adopted a law against plastic bags in 2008 and a new law gazetted in August this year adds to the list of other types of plastics deemed equally harmful to the environment.
The 2019 law is extensive and prohibits the manufacturing, importation, use and sale of plastic carry bags and single-use plastic items.
Failure to adhere to the law will attract hefty penalties or even revocation of trade licences.
“The new law is intended to check unnecessary consumption and disposal of single-use plastic items, which are harmful to the environment,” said Vincent Biruta, the Minister of Environment.
“Producers of single-use plastics have been duly informed in a timely manner and will be required to adjust. There are paper or bamboo alternatives that serve the same purpose without destroying the environment,” he added.
LOSS OF CUSTOMERS
“We are definitely going to lose many customers who relied on single-use plastics, but it also means we shall get new customers who use plastics that cannot be replaced,” Wenceslas Habamungu managing director for Ecoplastic told The EastAfrican.
Ecoplastic has been recycling plastics and supplying single-use plastics since 2010, alongside four other plastic recycling companies operating in the country.
“We collect over 100 tonnes of plastics across the country and turn them into usable items, we therefore see ourselves as part of this war against environmental degradation,” he added.