EDITORIAL: In the long run, there is more to gain from banning plastic bags

Close to ten years have passed since Rwanda banned the use of plastic bags. In fact, to kick off the ban, the President led a cleanup exercise to pick plastic bags that had littered the countryside, clogging water channels and sometimes ending in the stomachs of domestic animals.

The ban has been successful to a large extent, save for the few pieces in the hands of fruit vendors that are smuggled from neighbouring countries.

Environmental conservation has been given a priority in this country and it is already selling the same idea to our region.

A bill to ban plastic bags in member states of the East African Community is ready in the Legislative Assembly. But Kenya has gone a step further; it has given a six month notice to set the ban in motion, and as it could be expected, it is already getting much opposition from plastic manufacturers.

True, their argument that the 176 plastic bag manufacturers indirectly sustain the livelihoods of over 400,000 and the economy would lose an estimated Rwf40 billion in annual revenues.

Rwanda had no plastic bag manufacturer to talk about when the ban was set in motion, most of them were imported and the business people were the first to cry foul when the ban was imposed. Today the outcry has simmered because they see the advantages of banning plastic.

Not only is our environment safer, it has seen the rise of the paper bag industry that was non-existent before the ban.

Changing mindsets is always a challenge and it does not help when selfish interests creep in. so our Kenyan brethren had better brace themselves for what will be an annoying change for many. But in the long run, it is their communities that stand to gain, and our fruit vendors will stop having a cheap source for their plastic temptations.