Fight against banned plastic bags taken to the streets

The Kigali Veterans Cooperative Society (KVCS) has joined hands with the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (Rema) to launch a joint project to discourage fruit vendors from using polythene bags.
A street vendor in downtown Kigali. Some vendors move with polythene bags concealed in other bags and only use them to package for a buyer. (T. Kisambira)
A street vendor in downtown Kigali. Some vendors move with polythene bags concealed in other bags and only use them to package for a buyer. (T. Kisambira)

The Kigali Veterans Cooperative Society (KVCS) has joined hands with the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (Rema) to launch a joint project to discourage fruit vendors from using polythene bags.

In 2008, government banned all non-bio-degradable products in the effort to conserve the environment. However, there have been cases of people smuggling in the bags and selling them to vendors who mainly deal in fruits and vegetables.

KVCS will for the next six months comb the City of Kigali educating vendors on the need to use environmental friendly packing materials.

According to Steven Seka, the director general of KVCS, the new packaging bags are made of biodegradable material.

KVCS is considered a strategic partner considering their role as parking attendants who manage and monitor public parking across the city.

The city project is estimated to cost Rwf55 million.

The first phase of the project will engage more than 100 representatives of the vendors and city parking ticket attendants who will work as field environment guards.

The environment guards will distribute the new environmentally friendly bags for free and also confiscate plastic ones.

The vendors say they are aware of the dangers of polythene bags, but that they continue to use them because of lack of alternative packaging material.

“We needed alternative packaging materials that are transparent because we want the products we sell to be visible to the client,” said Marie Claire Linga, who sells fruits.

Dr Rose Mukankomeje, director-general of Rema, said the new project has brought best alternative materials made of nets that make fruits and vegetables visible to the outside and they will be given freely during the project implementation.

“Vendors carry fruits and vegetables in polythene bags that were banned because of their negative effects on environment and human health. We will put the vendors in cooperatives to help them access alternative materials and also formalise their businesses,” she said.

The City vice mayor for social affairs, Hope Tumukunde, said the project is complementing other initiatives in place to empower vendors.

“We have been helping them relocate to different marketplaces where we give them free stalls we also have been encouraging them to form cooperatives and this new project will supplement these efforts,” she said.