I’ve already mentioned that plastic bags were banned in Rwanda 10 years ago (that includes any thin plastic products, like food wrap or bin bags, which can be a bit difficult to get used to but not too bad). Indeed, you won’t find plastic anywhere, neither in shops nor scattered by the roadside.
Your shopping gets packed in brown paper bags or bags made from light fabric. That’s why I was surprised when the beef I was buying from the butcher was packed in a plastic bag. But it turns out it’s not ordinary plastic – it’s oxo-biodegradable! Here’s the photo with the description:
It doesn’t end with plastic though. Glass bottles are returnable – if you’re buying two beers or tonic waters, you need to return two bottles. If you don’t, you pay more (it depends on the shop but sometimes even twice as much). You can also bring your empty bottles and just get money back. Interestingly, it’s the same in neighbouring Burundi. T. went earlier this week and really liked Amstel Bock which is not sold in Rwanda 😉 He wanted to buy a crate as he was travelling by car and could take it back but shops refused to sell it to him because he didn’t have bottles to return. Eventually, with the help of a local driver, he got the crate from some tiny village shop but had to promise he’d bring back the bottles at some point 🙂 As for other bottles (wine, oil, other liquids) and broken glass, there is currently no recycling facility in Rwanda so they are taken to Tanzania to a contracted company that recycles glass. There have been talks recently to ban packaging alcoholic drinks, especially gin, in plastic bottles (it’s cheaper, lighter and doesn’t break so is much easier to transport). However, it’s currently on hold as the producers protested against such a drastic change. Introducing new production lines would simply bankrupt their businesses. Nevertheless, I’m still impressed by the Rwandan authorities and the measures they put in place. Nature is one of the country’s major assets, so it’s great to see that ecology is on the list of the government’s priorities.