bagging efforts

Rwanda: How plastic became the new contraband

By Ivan Mugisha

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Posted on November 11, 2022 11:31

 © People carrying groceries in plastic bags. REUTERS/Stringer
People carrying groceries in plastic bags. REUTERS/Stringer

A carefully planned operation by the Rwandan police in early September, through the use of informants, intercepted a man who was found carrying up to 84 cartons of plastic bags that he had smuggled into the country from neighbouring Uganda.

The man was instantly arrested and handed over to the prosecution team. The plastic bags were handed over to the environment authority for proper dispossession.

He is one of the hundreds of plastic smugglers to be arrested every year in Rwanda.

In a country where polythene bags are considered contraband, such arrests are routine, as Rwanda continues to impose one of the world’s strictest laws against the importation, use and manufacture of polythene bags.

Offenders of this law, which was adopted in 2008, face imprisonment of up to a year and a fine of up to R₣500,000 (around $500). In case of re-offenders, the penalty is doubled.

Arrests abound

This year alone, some five big operations were successful – and they are almost exclusively along Rwanda’s borders.

About 10 people were arrested between July and September this year for smuggling up to 500 large cartons of plastic bags into the

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