Despite Rwanda’s apparent efforts at environmental conservation and keeping clean streets, the country is still faced with environmental problems due to waste plastic bottles that consumers still throw away in the open, researchers at the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) have warned.
The Polyethylene that are normally recycled to be reused are non degradable materials and they release toxic chemicals when they are burned, leaving people to breathe harmful fumes.
After conducting an experimental study, REMA has indicated that every day an average of 80,000 locally produced 500 ml bottles are put on Kigali markets with most of the bottles (about 80 percent) containing mineral water.
The main producers of the bottles are local food manufacturing chains such as Inyange Industries, Sulfo Rwanda, and Electromax.
REMA’s Communications Officer, Clarisse Kawera, revealed that the studies to identify the real quantity of plastic bottles produced in the country were conducted as part of the agency’s work to sensitise Rwandans on how to respect the bottles’ recycling guide.
“The research we carried out in Kigali City showed that there is high productivity and consumption of these bottles. They are used mainly for packing soft drinks, mineral water, milk, oil, food and some engineering materials,” she said.
According to Dr Solange Basananyirazo who works at the Kanombe Military Hospital, burning the bottles can cause toxins which are released in the air and contaminate plants, soil, and both surface and underground water.
The researcher said that open burning of the bottles is often practiced in rural areas closer to agricultural activities.
“Because burning trash in garbage heap has no pollution controls as professional incineration does, outdoor burning emits significantly more chemical toxins and particulates,” she said.
The expert explained that some plastics, such as those known as Number 3, 6 and 7 are very harmful because they contain Bisphenol A (BPA) which is suspected of causing neurological and behavioural problems in foetuses and children, leading to detrimental effects that can potentially cause brain cancer.
REMA experts say that recycling the bottles remains the only sustainable solution for used water bottles. They hence urge local business people and industries that produce bottled water to heavily invest in the business.