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Yes, plastic bags illegal in Rwanda, punishment includes jail time

A post shared on Facebook in South Africa claims that plastic bags are banned in Rwanda. 

The image in the post shows a wide street in front of houses on a hill. 

“Plastic bags have been illegal in Rwanda since 2008,” the meme says. “Border authorities confiscate them from travelers, and executives of companies that produce them can be sent to prison for up to a year. This zero-tolerance policy has made Rwanda one of the most litter-free countries in the world.” 

Africa Check looked into how Rwanda regulates plastic bags. 

Banning plastic bags and Vision 2020 strategy

On 10 August 2008 law number 57/2008 was passed in Rwanda.  

This law spells out the ban on plastic bags in Rwanda. Since then it has been illegal to produce, import, use and sell non-biodegradable plastic bags made from polythene in the country. 

The environmental actions taken by the Rwandan government are closely linked to their Vision 2020 strategy. 

Paul Kagame, the Rwandan president, launched this plan in 2000. The programme aims to transform Rwanda into a knowledge-based middle-income country. 

Penalties for manufacturing, selling or using plastic bags

Persons who have to manufacture, use, import or sell plastic bags can apply for authorisation with the environment management authority.  

Under article seven of the law the penalties are clearly stated. 

The fine for unauthorised usage of plastic bags ranges from 5,000 to 100,000 Rwandan francs (between US$5 and $110),  and the bags are confiscated.

The fine for unauthorised selling of plastic bags ranges from RWF10,000 to RWF300,000 ($10 to $325).

“Industries which manufacture polythene bags, commercial companies or any person found in possession of prohibited polythene bags without authorisation in their stores, manufacturing or using them” could be sent to prison for six to 12 months and/or receive a fine of RWF100,000 to RWF500,000 ($110 to $540). 

Claim partly true

So yes, it is true that Rwanda has banned the manufacturing, usage, import or sale of plastic bags since 2008. 

“Executives of companies that produce” plastic bags can therefore go to prison for up to 12 months or face other penalties. This also applies to anyone illegally using a plastic bag in Rwanda. – Eileen Jahn


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