Every year, 13 million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean, accounting for 50 per cent of marine litter. It is estimated that over one million seabirds and 100,000 sea mammals are killed by ingesting plastics every year.
Today, most floods, especially in cities, are caused by discarded plastic bags clogging water channels and heaps of plastic litter preventing water from seeping into the ground.
Being well aware of the dangers of plastics, Rwanda took stiff measures when it banned the manufacture, importation and use of plastic bags 10 years ago. That, together with cleaning up during the monthly community work, Umuganda, has made a major difference in the country.
In a country that has bountiful rainfall, there is hardly any flooding or clogging of ditches. Soon, other countries took the same route and banned plastic bags, even though in some places the implementation policies are weak and the plastic industry lobby has been giving them a rough time.
Now the Government is talking the war against plastics a notch higher. During the ongoing UN General Assembly, in one of the sideline meetings, the Minister for Environment, Dr Vincent Biruta, revealed what has been expected for some time; Rwanda will soon introduce a new law to ban single-use plastic.
His ministry led the way a few months ago when it banned plastic water bottles, cups and straws. Soon other government agencies followed suit and it was just a matter of time before the whole exercise was rolled-out countrywide.
The proposed law is bound to disrupt a few manufacturing industries such as mineral water producers and soft drink bottlers, so the earlier they begin putting in place contingency plans the better. It will be a difficult transition for sure, but it will all be in the interests of mother earth.