Are businesses ready to cope with ban on single-use plastics?

Single-use plastic cups on shelves in a local supermarket. Photo: Courtesy

Manufacturers and dealers of some single-use plastic products have appealed for more time so they can adjust and avoid financial losses.

There are about 20 single-use plastics banned in Rwanda.

Wholesalers, retailers and consumers were given a three-month grace period in October last year to stop using single-use plastic products while factories that produce the banned products were given a two-year grace period.

Now, manufacturers have requested that the grace period be extended for wholesalers, retailers and factories to get alternatives without incurring losses.

Anitha Urayeneza, the Managing Director of NBG Ltd that produces straws in Gasabo District, told The New Times that she invested Rwf250 million to start the factory three years ago and added that until now she has not yet paid back a loan she acquired.

“I have not yet started to really make tangible profits since I have not yet even finished paying back the bank loan. It requires me at least three years to finish paying back the loan. This means if straws are banned in wholesalers and retailers now, I will have no market in the two-year grace period that runs out in 2021.

I think a 5-year grace period is better for manufacturers like me to pay back the loans we acquired from banks and find alternatives to single-use plastics,” she said.

Urayeneza added that if she gets at least five years, she could be able to switch from environment polluting straws to producing environmentally friendly straws, which need at least Rwf600 million because it would mean using new machines and technology to produce the straws.

The company employs 30 permanent workers who could lose jobs if it is not facilitated in transition. It has been producing at least 1,000 boxes of straws per day.

One box contains 12 packs of straws while one pack contains 200 straws. This means the factory produces 2.4 million straws per day.

She said that if the grace period is extended, they will set up mechanisms to collect the straws and supply them to recycling companies.

“Some companies can recycle them into pavers, sacks and they are already collecting them for recycling”.

She emphasised that factories, wholesalers and retailers should be given more grace period to empty products from stores.

“You cannot tell a wholesaler to stop the business and then tell the factory to continue operating for two years. Where can we sell the products?” she said.

Dealers

The New Times visited different shops and supermarkets in Kimironko and found single-use plastic products in stores.

Jean-Paul Kamali, who sells single-use plastic items at Simba supermarket, Kimironko branch said: “I suggest they extend the deadline to empty the stores since most of us were not aware of the deadline. The other thing is that local manufacturers and importers should first be targeted to stop producing and supplying to us. If they stop, we will empty products we already have from our stores and then totally stop trading in these products,” he said.

A pack of 200 plastic straws at Simba Supermarket costs Rwf700, a pack of single-use plastic knives stands at Rwf1,800, while a pack of 25 single-use plastic plates goes for Rwf2,000.

There were also forks, cups and items.

“We can totally stop if they are no longer produced and supplied to us,” he said.

Emmanuel Turatsinze, who owns a shop in Kimironko, added that he sells over 20 packs of plastic straws per week.

However, he reiterated, “I heard last year that they could be banned and I thought it would take like a year. But if factories and importers stop supplying, we will also stop. What we need is to supply us the alternatives or products that are environmentally friendly so that we continue to serve clients.”

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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