As Rwanda gears up for the celebration of World Environmental Day (WED 2023), the country recommitted to ending plastic pollution. World Environment is celebrated annually on June 5, and encourages awareness and action for the protection of the environment. During the car-free day sporting activities held on Sunday ahead of WED 2023, focus was given to ending single-use plastics. ALSO READ: Rwanda, Peru propose ambitious global action on plastic reduction In 2019, Rwanda passed a law prohibiting the manufacturing, importation, use, and sale of single-use plastic items in Rwanda. The ban is supported by the law N° 17/2019 of 10/08/2019 relating to the prohibition of manufacturing, importation, use and sale of plastic carry bags and single-use plastic items. The law has listed the names of single-use plastic items under the ban whose dealers have been given a three-month grace period to phase them out. The items include single-use plastic packaging materials for food and other products, plastic straws, plastic spoons and forks, plastic knives, plastic cups, dishes and balloons among others. More than 6,000 tonnes of single-use plastic waste need recycling every year 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. Rwanda and Peru have proposed a legally binding international treaty to reduce global plastic wastes. The treaty aims to end plastic pollution by 2040. In May 2023, Countries met in Paris to negotiate a new Global Plastics Treaty. “This year, we focused on fighting against environment pollution caused by plastics, especially single-use plastics,” Jeanne D’arc Mujawamariya, the minister for environment said. On car-free day, bottles that are reused were distributed to people as part of raising awareness about single-use plastics effects and how they can be eliminated. The environment week which started on May 27 was marked by different activities. “All Rwandans should join efforts to eliminate single-use plastics by adopting alternatives and recycling those on the market,” she said. The campaign to end plastics is based on the fact that most plastic items end up in landfills, rivers, lakes, oceans, waterways, and the environment and they do not biodegrade. ALSO READ: How banning of single-use plastics will contribute to environment protection for Rwanda’s green development Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) says that the single-use plastic items pollute the environment such as blocking water channels and preventing water from penetrating into the soil, affects biodiversity in the water bodies (lakes, rivers); clogging water drainage systems and thus triggering flooding, causes air pollution when burnt and aesthetically displeasing when littered on the environment. Mujawamariya urged all institutions to set up water dispensers to reduce single use plastic bottles and embrace reusable bottles. Juliet Kabera, the Director General of REMA urged factories to continue phasing out single-use plastics. ““Inyange factory and Skol brewing company demonstrated that it is possible to replace plastic bottles with glass bottles,” she said. She urged local leaders to take the lead in educating residents about the effects of plastics on the environment. Kabera also encouraged the private sector to design more plastic recycling projects. In 2021, REMA and The Private Sector Federation (PSF) launched a project dubbed “Sustainable Management of single-use Plastics Project” for collecting, transportation, disposal and recycling of single-use plastics. ALSO READ: Over 100 tonnes of single-use plastics collected in two months During the environment week, REMA conducted inspections in different areas to fine the businesses that are still using single use plastics and called for adopting the use of reusable alternatives to plastic bags and single use plastic items, to promote healthier life and a greener environment. Civil Society interventions Rwanda Climate Change Developmental Network (RCCDN), REMA and Centre Culturel Francophone du Rwanda- French cultural centre, Youth Climate Action Initiative hosted a Gala Night aiming to raise awareness of the environment protection and climate change. During the Gala Night on Saturday June 3, Youth Climate Action Initiative delivered a song that portrays the message of protecting the environment. Kabera challenged the Rwandan Youth to be the voices that ensure the protection of the environment. She encouraged youth to speak out for anything that can help in creating awareness about Climate Change. Via different drama plays, Youth Climate Action Initiative raised awareness by showcasing how beating plastic use could be a huge solution to eradicate land and air pollution, plus protecting the environment. Faustin Vuningoma, the Coordinator of Rwanda Climate Change and Development organizations Network in Rwanda reiterated that more awareness campaigns are needed to educate Rwandans about effects of plastics adding that youth should play a big role. “The youth demonstrated that they have potential to contribute to efforts to end plastic pollution. We call for more efforts to stop the use of single use plastics and recycle those that are being used. Youth can play a big role,” he said.