IN FOCUS: Experiencing Rwanda’s plastic bag ban and whether Singapore could take a similar approach

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On the other hand, my colleague who stored a paper bag with banana cake in the refrigerator found that the bag tore easily after a few days in cooler temperatures.

Asked about these concerns, REMA acknowledged that people have become addicted to plastic because it is cheap to produce, lightweight and therefore easy and cheap to transport, and “incredibly” strong and durable.

“But it’s these benefits that also make it so harmful. The micro-plastics that result from these processes are harmful to the environment. It’s also very difficult to recycle,” the spokesperson said.

“Buyers are encouraged to make more environmentally friendly choices in the packaging and transportation of items.”

CHALLENGES Abound

Yet there continues to be some pushback.

REMA said some people continue to smuggle plastic bags into Rwanda, which local non-governmental organization Rema Environment Awareness Organization alludes to.

“We are doing a lot, but when your neighbors don’t have this policy, I think it will be difficult for us,” said its project coordinator Johnson Kayitare, pointing out that people could buy plastic bags in countries like the Congo, Burundi and Tanzania and bring them across the border.

Mr. Alan Gahamanyi, who runs a supermarket on a busy street in Kigali, told me that some customers have “begged” to be given a plastic bag so they can use it at home, for example , for storing vegetables.

“It’s illegal,” said the 31-year-old. “Unless I put meat in it, I can’t give it to you.”

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