The government of Rwanda has launched a 14-year circular economy action plan that needs $211.2 million to be implemented in managing waste and adopting clean production technologies. A circular economy is defined as a model of production and consumption, which involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing, and recycling existing materials and products for as long as possible. At least 17 interventions are needed up to 2035 according to Dismas Karuranga, the Pollution and Waste Policy Specialist in the Ministry of environment. The interventions, he said, include developing a circular economy module in curricula of primary, and secondary schools and universities as well as circular economy vocational training courses. “We need promotion of partnerships and collaboration across the public and private sector, academia, and civil society by promoting the Cleaner Production Centre (CPCIC) as Circular Economy Hub, private sector engagement as well as establishing a circular economy accelerator and incubator programme,” he said He said enhancing the valorization of organic waste from Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), decreasing post-harvest losses, and establishing waste collection and transfer centres in every district that allow the most appropriate waste treatment are highly needed. Karuranga made a case for installing a systemic data collection system for waste and developing a national regulation that facilitates waste characterization and treatment are among the planned interventions. The activities up to 2035 also include enforcing the revised National Building Code and the use of the Green Building Compliance System, prioritizing renewable and local materials over exhausting non-renewable materials. He said that among the priorities also include subsidizing high-quality commercial organic fertilizers and locally produced biological farm inputs, integration of urban and peri-urban farms/food systems into national planning, developing national guidelines for farmers that provide guidance on how to set up a crop and or animal farm in the most sustainable and circular way. The circular action plan, which was launched on December 6, 2022 during World Circular Economy Forum in Kigali, again involves improving the planning of water resources management, supply, and wastewater treatment in urban and rural areas, promoting a cleaner, more efficient, and circular water use in agriculture, industry, and service sectors, improving and enforcing high- quality wastewater treatment and preventing degradation of the environment. Jeanne D’arc Mujawamariya, the Minister for Environment said that Rwanda’s commitment to the circular economy is driven by an aspiration to foster socio-economic transformation while also conserving and protecting our environment. “Benefits are immense. Reducing waste and greenhouse gas emissions, halting biodiversity loss, and shifting to genuine recycling promise a greener future for us all,” she said. He said that Rwanda also revised its Environment and Climate Change policy to incorporate the circular economy and set up a public-private platform to advance the circular economy. “While we are proud of the progress we have made, we still have a long way to go to ensure a just and inclusive transition to a circular economy. That is why Rwanda developed this first-ever National Circular Economy Action Plan and Roadmap,” she said. Mujawamariya disclosed that the Government of Germany has provided up to 8.5 million Euro to support a sustainable waste and circular economy in Rwanda through the Rwandan-German Climate and Development Partnership. “The project will put in place institutional and financial frameworks for the private sector to implement inclusive and climate-sensitive approaches for waste management and the circular economy,” she said. Waste management experts speak out on challenges Waste management experts have said that if waste is not sorted out at household and institutional levels, waste recycling could be costly, and “producing organic fertilizers from urban waste could not be possible as it contains a lot of hazardous chemicals.” “Waste is dumped at a landfill. It is not good to mix soft waste, solid waste, plastic waste, e-waste, soil, paper, and hazardous waste such as lights with mercury chemicals, and stones among others because they cause cancer and pollute the soil. This is risky because there is some hazardous waste that puts people’s lives in danger. All people need education and skills about sorting out waste before they are taken to landfills or for recycling,” said Paulin Buregeya, a waste management expert who is also CEO of the Company for Protection of Environment and Development (COPED). He said that in 2019, the company invested in producing organic waste from urban waste but later researchers found that the organic fertilizer was not safe for crops to be consumed. The company was supposed to generate 10 tonnes of organic waste per day but later scientists warned that urban waste is dangerous compared to rural waste (composed of only agricultural and food waste). “Organic fertilizers from urban waste are not safe unless people embrace sorting out waste before collection and dumping. Since then, we stopped operations so that we first train farmers on sorting waste. This needs government intervention to enhance awareness about waste sorting, waste collection companies’ investment in training people and changing mindset of people and institutions -who generate waste-to be able to sort out it before collection,” he said. He also said there is a need for technology to help generate organic fertilizer from waste. “This could take six months but we have now got technology or machines that produce organic fertilizers in only 15 days,” he noted. “If sorting out waste fails, recycling companies will also struggle,” he noted. Cedric Prince Mugunga, an environmental expert who works at a new company dubbed “WECAN Recycle Ltd added, “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.” According to Adriana Zacarias, for Africa to move forward with the transition to circular economy, there is a need for enhanced support. “To leapfrog you need legs,” she said. Wanjira Mathai, The Managing Director for Africa and Global Partnerships at World Resources Institute called for circular food systems. Circular food system means adopting circular economy practices, which ensure that food is produced in ways that restore nature, that food is not lost or wasted, and that resources typically wasted are used productively.