Rwanda is known internationally for its cleanliness and its strong stance against using plastic bags. In 2008, Rwanda enacted a law banning the importation, production, use, and sale of plastic bags. Rwanda’s audacious ban, however harsh it may be, seems to have been effective. Numerous international environmental agencies have praised the prohibition for helping clean up the streets of the country, especially Kigali.
Rwanda aims to be the first country globally to eliminate all plastic waste. Rwanda’s push for sustainability is driven by its ambitious goal of becoming a middle-income country by 2020. Recently, the Ministry of Environment has tabled a draft law which seeks to ban single-use plastics in Rwanda to cabinet. The plastics that will be affected by the new law include some plastic bags, which were not affected by the 2008 legislation along with plastic straws, utensils, plates, and disposable cups. Plastic bottles could also fall victim of the proposed law, according to officials. If Rwanda introduces this new law against single-use plastics, it will be the second country in Africa, after Seychelles to restrict the use of single-use plastics. Aligning with the United Nations Environment Programme which pushes for "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.
Countries all over the world struggle with the disposal of plastic waste as most plastics are made from fossil fuels like crude oil, which contribute to climate change and take over 450 years to break down. International Environmental law has developed in response to emerging awareness of and concern over issues like waste disposal that impact the entire world. Yet many governments, especially those in the developing world, still lack the funds to create jobs in sanitation to clean up waste, recycle, and deal with the influx of plastic waste. The introduction of a draft law against single-use plastics will go a long way in eliminating waste and cementing Rwanda's "deliberate push" to preserve the environment, said Faustin Munyazikwiye, Deputy Director General of Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA). Which showcases how the Rwandan Government is encouraging policies that minimize environmental impacts and focus on long-term sustainability.
Moreover, these proposals are in line with the Rwandan constitution which states that "every citizen is entitled to a healthy and satisfying environment." The Constitution also outlines each citizen's responsibility to "protect, safeguard and promote the environment". Plastic pollution is a big threat to world waters and marine life, as well as negatively impacting the food chain, polluting the surrounding environment, and impacting public health. According to the Environment Minister, Dr. Vincent Biruta: “Single use plastics are damaging our rivers, wetlands, and farmlands. They also pose a threat to our health. Like all rubbish, plastic waste blocks drains and waterways”. It’s clear that plastic waste has become an environmental catastrophe that we can no longer ignore. Rwanda’s progressive push for harsher restrictions regarding the use, importation, and production of single-use plastic is thus indispensable. There have been remarkable environmental benefits since Rwanda prohibited polythene bags over a decade ago. Banning single-use plastics will therefore be another step forward in the fight against climate change, showcasing to the world that a pro-environment stance by governments is feasible.
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