There is a need to establish centres across the country to collect and recycle more than 500 tonnes of single-use plastic waste generated every month, environmentalists have said.
The need is based on Rwanda’s move to ban and reduce single-use plastics in line with implementing the 2019 law prohibiting the manufacturing, importation, use, and sale of single-use plastic items in Rwanda.
Plastics are blamed for taking up to thousands of years to decompose which results in contaminating soil, water and food as well as affecting different species.
Over 2,400 chemicals in plastics are noted as potentially hazardous to human health and the environment according to studies.
The government of Rwanda and Private Sector Federation (PSF), on November 23, launched a project to engage businesses and investors in contributing fees to help collect and recycle single-use plastic waste.
At least Rwf700 million in fees could be mobilized from the private sector in five years to manage plastics.
Olivier Mbera, Country General Manager of Enviroserve-a recycling company partnering in collecting single-use plastics, said that so far, since June this year, only 100 tonnes are being collected per month against a generation of more than 500 tonnes of single-use plastic waste every month.
More than 6,000 tonnes of single-use plastic waste need recycling every year.
“We have launched the project to collect all single-use plastic waste for recycling. There are currently 20 agents helping in the collection in the City of Kigali and secondary cities and we want collection centres in all districts of the country,” he said.
Green job creation
He said that while the current collection of single-use plastic waste is employing around 500 people, it could create 1,200 jobs once scaled up in all districts.
“Those who collect the single-use plastics are paid between Rwf200 and Rwf300 per Kilogramme. This is a job creation opportunity,” he said.
So far since June 2022, about 400 tonnes of single-use plastic have been collected in the City of Kigali and Secondary cities.
“At least 70 per cent were collected in the city of Kigali. While we are collecting 100 tonnes per month, we are planning to collect 150 tonnes per month,” he said.
The single-use plastics are being crushed to produce pellets (small, rounded, compressed mass of a substance produced from recycled plastics) to serve as raw materials to produce other products
“We are still exporting most of these pellets produced from recycling plastics because there are not many local companies to use them. In the second phase, we also want to invest these pellets into making dustbins, jerricans, and packaging materials for soaps among others,” he noted.
Cedric Prince Mugunga, an environmental expert who works at a new company dubbed “WECAN Recycle Ltd” said that they have begun to recycle different plastics including single-use plastics to supply the pellets (a small, rounded, compressed mass of a substance produced from recycled plastics) as raw materials to factories to make other products.
“We are collecting and recycling between 180 and 200 tonnes of different plastics into pellets per month. We supply these pellets to factories that use them as raw materials to produce other products. However, the cost of collection is still high.
Sorting waste at the household level is also not being done and this raises recycling costs. All these are still challenges we are facing. We need funds to expand our operations,” he said.
Jeanne-Francoise Mubiligi, the Vice Chairperson of the Private Sector Federation and an entrepreneur reiterated that the private sector and the government have to sustain joint efforts to address the issue of plastic pollution by ensuring proper mechanisms to collect, transport, reuse, and recycle single-use plastics from all around the country.
“We have to ensure that single-use plastics usage is limited to only cases where there is no existing alternative and that all the produced plastics are collected from the environment and recycled,” she said.
Importers of plastics to pay a levy
According to Eric Murera, an environment expert at PSF, the imported single-use plastics are estimated at 3,000 tonnes per year in Rwanda and packaging accounts for 47 per cent.
Faustin Munyazikwiye, the Deputy Director General of Rwanda Environment Management Authority said that the government is working on a ministerial order to charge a levy on products imported while packaged into plastics.
He added that before business people get special authorization to import plastics and products packaged into plastics, they have first to pay a fee (Rwf100 per kg of plastic imported) to the project launched on November 23, to collect and recycle single-use plastics.
Olive Muhongerwa, the Secretary General of manufacturers and suppliers of plastic products said they pay the required feed to recycle plastics but raised some challenges.
“We are required to present the list of traders with purchase orders and RDB certificates we supply to but it is very difficult to make a list of the whole population. So, this requirement limits us to a number of clients,” she said.
A global coalition to end plastic pollution by 2040
In August this year, the Governments of Rwanda and Norway launched the High Ambition Coalition to end plastic pollution, Jeanne D’arc Mujamawariya, The Minister of Environment.
The High Ambition Coalition was first initiated following the historic UN Environment Assembly resolution passed in March 2022 to start negotiations of an international legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution.
The coalition to end plastic pollution will issue statements and undertake inter-sessional work on essential elements and issues to inform the negotiations in order to develop a landmark treaty by 2024.
The initiative aims to form a group of ambitious countries to work for a truly effective global treaty that will establish common global rules, turn off the tap, and end plastic pollution by 2040.
The world produces more than 400 million tonnes of plastics every year and plastic consumption is projected to be 1,231 million tonnes in 2060.
Since September, Mujamwariya said 34 countries and the European Union have joined the coalition.
She said that only 14 per cent of the plastic packaging used globally is recycled while 40 per cent ends up in landfills and 32 per cent in the ecosystem.
“Therefore, the business community should take action including getting alternatives and recycling as they create green jobs and reduce emissions,” she said.
She added that the $104 million Rwanda Green Investment facility has been launched to facilitate such private-sector green investments through affordable loans and grants.