Crackdown on plastic bags goes to bakeries

The Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) has warned bakeries against packaging their products in banned plastic bags. In a joint countrywide operation by REMA and Police yesterday, authorities urged bakery owners to use alternative packaging materials on the market.
Loaves of bread were confiscated by REMA in addition to paying Rwf300,000 of fines. / Michel Nkurunziza
Loaves of bread were confiscated by REMA in addition to paying Rwf300,000 of fines. / Michel Nkurunziza

The Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) has warned bakeries against packaging their products in banned plastic bags.

In a joint countrywide operation by REMA and Police yesterday, authorities urged bakery owners to use alternative packaging materials on the market.

Most bakeries use banned plastic bags christened “cling film’’ according to authorities.

In Kigali, a couple of bakeries found using plastic bags were fined each Rwf300,000, money that goes to Rwanda Green Fund (FONERWA) to support environmental protection projects.

According to the law, factories found using banned plastic bags are fined between Rwf100,000 and Rwf500,000 or owners face jail term of between 2 and six months.

An individual who sells the banned bags is fined between Rwf10, 000 and Rwf300,000 while buyers are fined between Rwf5,000 and Rwf100,000.

Samson Twiringire, the Chemical and Pollution officer at Environmental Regulations and Pollution Control at REMA said: “in 2012 bakeries were warned not to use these kinds of plastic bags ‘cling film’ for packaging bread. They were only reserved for packaging salads which have no alternative packaging materials at the moment.”

He stressed that bread has alternative packaging bags manufactured by more than three factories in Rwanda.

The sealed ‘cling film’ bags are available in different markets for only salad dealers (hotels, hospitals, big restaurants) which also signed an agreement with REMA on how they are collected and taken to recycling factories, according to REMA.

However, bakery owners who were caught-red handed using these non-biodegradable plastic bags explained that they thought that the bags were allowed since they purchase them from recognized dealers.

“We thought they are allowed to be used. We really have other alternatives but we thought sealed ‘cling films’ plastic bags are allowed to be used since we buy them from those who legally sell them. They do not tell us that they are only for packaging salads probably because they only target money,” said Emile Mugabo one of the workers at Ikaze bakery in Jali sector, Gasabo District.

Emmanuel Nsengumuremyi, a bakery owner in Muhima sector of Nyarugenge District said there is need for more awareness on banned plastic bags.

He, however, said some alternative packaging materials on the market were not user friendly, citing costs and not being water-tight.

The joint operation follows one conducted on December 20 and 21, in which Rwf4.5m fines were slapped on some businesses and 2,175 cartons of plastic bags impounded.

Twiringire told the media that yesterday’s operation carried out in all districts follow reports that more banned plastic bags are infiltrating the market.

He said the operation has to be conducted regularly after detecting the smuggling trend.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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