Rwanda Environment Management Authority (Rema) has rejected a request from local manufacturers of single-use plastics seeking extension of the grace period for phasing out the materials. In 2019, Rwanda passed a law prohibiting the manufacturing, importation, use, and sale of single-use plastic items in Rwanda. At the time, manufacturers were given a two-year grace period which ended in September last year, after which they would phase out. Now manufacturers are appealing for an extension of the grace period, citing the effects of Covid-19 which they say derailed efforts to switch environmentally friendly business models. “The two-year grace period became too short for us to shift to producing alternatives because Covid-19 affected our operations and we could not get capital to change the model,” said Anitha Urayeneza, the Managing Director of NBG Ltd that produces drinking straws. She said that Covid-19 hit her business at the time she had not yet paid back the bank loan she had invested in the factory. NBG Ltd, which says it invested Rwf250 million to start the factory years ago, noted that it was seeking at least Rwf600 million to invest in new technology to produce eco-friendly straws. Before the Covid-19 outbreak, the company was producing 2.4 million drinking straws every day. She said that it requires the factory to bring in new machines to change business saying they were requesting at least five years of grace period. “We have been advised to devise a new project that is environmentally friendly which the Ministry of Environment could finance but this may take a bit longer. As we wait for any support, we are suggesting we continue operating, help in the disposal and work with recycling companies to collect used straws,” she said. She said that with an extended grace period, they will be able to work with recycling companies instead of halting the operations amidst the Covid-19 pandemic that affected them. The manufacturer’s appeal was initially supported by MPs in 2019 who requested the government to give the investors more period. “The law would be clear and important but if the company has secured a deal to do business and had a ten-year business plan and you give them just two years, what is the basis of this and how do you think they will adjust? MP Theogene Munyangeyo questioned. In an emailed response, REMA told The New Times that it will not give more grace period to manufacturers. “These factories have requested the extension of the grace period but their request was rejected. Any kind of single-use plastic item they were producing is prohibited. We all know that manufacturers tend to produce items depending on the market of their products, but at the time when the law was adopted, two factories manufacturers of straws were more dynamic,” REMA officials said. A mini-survey by The New Times found plastic straws and single-use plastic cups in different shops across the city despite the ban. “Manufacturers are encouraged to look for alternatives to single-use plastics which are environmentally friendly,” REMA stated. Levy on imported items packed in plastics REMA said that imported goods packaged in plastic material or single-use plastic items are subject to an environmental levy in accordance with relevant laws.’ “As clarified in the law, the progress to set the environmental levy is following the provisions of relevant laws. The draft law is in the advanced stages of its approval,” officials said. Are single-use plastic bottles concerned? This paper has learned that single-use plastic bottles are still allowed on the market as alternative solutions are still being worked on. So far only two beverage manufacturers-Inyange Industries and Skol have launched trials for packaging water in glass bottles. Meanwhile, the Minister for Environment, Jeanne dArc Mujawamariya, recently urged more companies that produce bottled water to switch from plastic packaging to glass bottles. She said that the next step is to have a factory for glass bottles in Rwanda as investors are being wooed. “We have a variety of sand as raw material that can allow us to locally manufacture glass bottles. The private sector must play a critical role to achieve this,” she said.