Rwanda becomes the first African country to ban all single-use plastics

RWANDA – Rwanda becomes the first country in East Africa to issue a complete ban on all single-use plastics a move that goes hand in hand with the country’s commitment of environmental protection.

Single-use plastics are plastics used only once before disposal which leads to their rapid accumulation in the environment subsequently causing pollution – if not recycled.

Most of single-use plastics are not biodegradable and include plastic bags, straws, coffee stirrers, soda and water bottles, disposable cutleries and most food packaging materials.

According to the passed law 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 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.

In 2008, Rwanda enacted a law prohibiting importing, producing, use or sell of non-biodegradable polythene plastic bags.

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.

A person who manufactures polythene bags and single-use plastic items is liable to closure of the activity, dispossession of such items and to an administrative fine of Rwf10 million.

A person who imports polythene bags and single-use plastic items is liable to dispossession of those polythene bags and such items and to an administrative fine equivalent 10 times of the value of those polythene bags and single use plastic items.

In addition, imported consumer goods packaged in polythene bags or single-use plastic items are subject to an environmental levy in accordance with relevant laws.

A person who intends to manufacture, use, and import or sell polyethene bags and single-use plastic items or pack goods in polythene bags and single-use plastic items for exceptional reasons will have to apply for an exceptional authorisation issued by the competent authority.

The institutions responsible for inspection and control of manufacturing, importation, use or sale of polythene bags or single-use plastic items according to the law are: Rwanda National Police; institution in charge of customs; Rwanda Investigation Bureau; Rwanda Environment Management Authority; institution in charge of the standards; Rwanda Inspectorate, Competition and Consumer Protection Authority; administrative decentralised entities.

“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.

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