BREAK FREE FROM PLASTICS: ENVIRONMENTAL PERSPECTIVES AND EVIDENCE FROM RWANDA
Journal: Environment & Ecosystem Science (EES)
Author: Janvier Hakuzimana
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License CC BY 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited
Plastics production (i.e 450 million tons per annum globally), use and disposal (i.e 300 million tons per annum globally) are one of the top environmental concerns and global waste management impediments. Nevertheless, nearly 90% of all plastics ever produced to present has never been recycled. Over the past decades, researchers’ voices have repeatedly been raised for acting and saving inland as well as aquatic ecosystems being harmed by the increasing plastic pollution. Microplastics have been reported by several studies to be in tap water, bottled drinks and in fish we eat. Consequently, conventions and agreements have been signed, laws and regulations enforced (banning, increased taxation, etc) in various regions and countries across the globe for lessening plastics harm on the environment. In this struggle, Rwanda looks to be in front line in beating plastic pollution crisis compared to other regional and continental countries; hence resulted in calling its capital Kigali by many, “the Africa’s cleanest city”. This success behind plastics break free could be attributed to Rwanda’s current strong institutional, political will (promotion of plastic recycling and reuse), legal frameworks (e.g non- biodegradable plastic bags ban, outlawing of single-use plastic items, penalties, severe fines, etc) and active citizens (e.g monthly community works also known as umuganda etc) in terms of eliminating plastic pollution, foster socio-economic development and environmental protection. These strategies do not only protect the environment but also save the money that the government would spend in cleaning the cities and facilitate the advertising of the country for its eco-friendliness; resulting in its tourism development. Recently, similar initiatives of reducing or banning plastics have been taken by several governments in African ,, lower-income countries and developed ones from other regions across the globe due to either limited recycling facilities, inadequate plastics trash disposal or as a solution to overcome the increase of plastic pollution which harm humans, farm animals, aquatic lives (fishes, sea turtles, etc), and the environment health. Thus, the present paper reviews the current knowledge of environmental impacts of plastics, approaches adopted for alleviating the harm from plastics in Rwanda and their implementation procedures which gave credits to the country on global environmental protection scene so that lessons from these practices can be implemented by other countries which aim at reducing plastics waste and associated pollution. The current solid waste management (i.e mainly plastics) and challenges are also discussed in order to be addressed by the authority in charge. Data and literature were retrieved from peer-reviewed journal articles, websites, books, reports, dissertations, local and international online newspapers. Despite significant efforts made towards a plastic free country, less has been written on plastic pollution in Rwanda; making it difficult to get reliable data and information for quantifying past impacts of plastic wastes. Furthermore, to the best of our knowledge no scientific research or report has been so far conducted to prove how plastic wastes contributed over the past years to flooding, prevented crops from growing, to what extent plastic litters have restrained rainwater from penetrating various soil types and other forms of plastic pollution in the country. Such studies are paramount for scientifically justify the ban initiatives in the country. This review resulted into encyclopedia that other researchers can build on to better understand environmental impacts of plastics to learn best plastics management practices for a sustainable environment.