Rwanda: Select plastic laws


> Law No. 17/2019 Relating to the Prohibition of Manufacturing, Importation, Use and Sale of Plastic Carry Bags and Single-Use Plastic Items

Rwanda’s Law No. 17/2019 was adopted 10 August 2019 and came into force upon publishing on 23 September 2019.  Repeals Law No. 57/2008.

“The manufacturing, importation or sale of plastic carry bags and single-use plastic items is prohibited.” Art. 3.  A person who intends to manufacture, import, export, or use prohibited items for an “exceptional reason” may apply for authorization in writing. Art. 4.

Plastic is defined as “a material derived from petrochemicals that are lightweight, soft and non-compostable.” Art. 2(6).

Single-use plastic item is defined as “a disposable plastic item designed to be used once before it is discarded or recycled. Single-use plastic items include plastic carry bags, oxo-degradable plastics and other items whose part is made from plastic material.” Art. 2(1).

An exception to the prohibition exists for “home compostable plastic items” and “woven polypropylene.” Art. 4.

Although “home compostable” is not defined, “compostable plastic material” is defined as “any material made from single-use plastic or plastic carry bag made from plant-based synthetic materials capable of undergoing biological decomposition in natural conditions.” Art. 2(2). 

Woven polypropylene is defined as “polypropylene strips/threads that have been woven in two directions (warp and weft) to create a light, but strong and heavy duty material.” Art. 2(9).

The law includes a few aspects of Extended Producer Liability (EPR) including:

1. Imposing an environmental levy on imported single-use plastic items and goods that come packaged in plastic (Art. 5); and

2. Requiring “[e]very manufacturer, wholesaler or retailer of plastic carry bags or single-use plastic items must put in place mechanisms to collect and segregate used plastic carry bags and single-use plastic items and hand them over to the recycling plants.” Art. 6.

Recycling is defined as “the process of collecting and processing plastic materials that would otherwise be thrown away as trash and turning them into new products.” Art. 2(4).

The law includes a list of sanctions depending on the violation (manufacturing, importing, etc.). The sanctions include ending the practice that violates the law, dispossession of illegal items, and fines. Arts. 9-13. Recidivism doubles the fine.  These fines are “deposited into the National Fund for Environment.” Art. 16.

The law allows for a brief transition period, exempting single-use plastic items already on hand or ordered for 3 months. In addition, factories in Rwanda that are manufacturing prohibited items have 2 years to comply. Art. 17.

> Guidelines on Procedures and Conditions for Eligibility to Grant Exceptional Permission to Manufacture, Use, Import or Sell Single-Use Plastic Items or Pack Goods in Single-Use Plastics, Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) (8 December 2019)

The law allows “A person who intends to manufacture, import and export or use plastic carry bags and single-use plastic items or pack goods in plastic material and single-use plastic items for exceptional reasons” to apply for exceptional authorization and requires the competent authority to establish guidelines for conditions for issuing the authorization. Law No. 17/2019.

The Guidelines published on 9 December 2019 recognize that plastic bags have contributed to flooding and reduced agricultural productivity by preventing rain water from reaching the soil; and that burning plastic contributes to air pollution. The Guidelines also state that adopting the expanded single-use plastic ban in 2019 was in recognition that other types of plastic are equally harmful and that the law is “intended to check the increasing habit of unnecessary consumption and disposal of single use plastic items which becomes a burden to the environment.” .