One of the first things that many travelers notice upon arriving in Rwanda is the lack of litter. Rwanda is beautiful country, and its citizens strive to keep it that way – not just for special occasions like today’s Earth Day. Littering is frowned upon, and many towns and cities have monthly litter clean-ups that are widely attended and a source of community pride.
Another of the tools that Rwanda uses to protect its environment is a ban on plastic bags. The government implemented the ban in 2008 after studying the effects of disposed bags on the environment. According to the Rwanda Environment Management Authority, people were burning plastic bags along with other trash, releasing dangerous pollutants into the air. Bags were also carried away on the wind. This led to litter; the deaths of livestock and wild animals that mistook them for food; and clogged drainage systems that resulted in flooding and sanitation problems.
The plastic bag ban may have its downsides. Some are concerned that disposable paper bags are being overused and may create their own sustainability problems. But so far the benefits of the plastic bag ban are many. Besides promoting a cleaner environment, the shift away from plastic bags has helped local economies by increasing demand for reusable carriers. Business both large and small benefit from this, with independent weavers manufacturing many of the reusable baskets and bags that are now in demand.
And the natural beauty of the country is unmarred by plastic bags blowing in the wind.