On Earth Day, new report highlights Rwanda’s journey of successfully reducing plastic pollution over two decades, through strict bans on single-use plastic.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 22 April, 2021, 9am CAT

Rwanda now seen as Global Leader in the fight to end plastic waste

April 22, 2021 – In contrast to polluting approaches like “waste-to-energy” incinerators and landfills, since 2004, Rwanda began a process of carrying out national bans to reduce the consumption and manufacturing of single-use plastic in the country. The adverse health and environmental effects of plastic pollution is one of the most pressing issues of this time. Plastic has infiltrated our waterways, air, and food, and has had detrimental implications for ecosystems and the livelihoods of people. For the East African country, the approach to tackling plastic waste management entailed the enforcement of strong policies, which has reaped environmental, social and economic benefits.

The report can be found at zerowasteworld.org/rwanda_plastic_ban. 

Rwanda’s success in reducing plastic can be attributed to its dedicated countrywide campaigns about the impacts of plastic on biodiversity, human health and community development, and using different mediums to educate and spark behavioural change from citizens. Moreover, the government’s investment into alternatives saw boosted employment and support for local businesses that started the transition to producing environmentally friendly products, as well as the growing traction around reusable alternatives.

Neil Tangri, Science & Policy Director at the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) said:

“With plastic production doubling every 18 years, it is clear that we cannot recycle our way out of the problem. We need to stop plastic pollution at the source,  the production phase. Rwanda’s success demonstrates to the world that a country free of plastic pollution is not a utopia but a realistic, affordable, and practical reality. Rather than looking to Europe or the US for solutions, Rwanda demonstrates that any country can solve plastic pollution and significantly reduce its climate footprint with simple, strong national policies.”

The capital city of Kigali in Rwanda is considered one of the tidiest urban areas in the African continent and has therefore fostered a sense of national pride in citizens who celebrate their clean and green country. Rwanda was the first country in the African region to introduce a law banning plastic and is now recognised as one of the few countries in the world to progressively react to the issue of plastic pollution. The ban has resulted in recognisable environmental, social and economic success. As of 2019, 1,219,529 tourists visit the country annually, where 89,607 jobs exist within the tourism sector.

Innocent Musore, Executive Director for the Global Initiative for Environment and Reconciliation (GER) said:

“We have seen the positive changes of the plastic bans through the cleanliness in the country, as well as how the public adapted to the alternatives. We see a vivid reduction of plastic bags. Plastic is a continental and global issue, the experience of Rwanda, in banning plastic, needs to be shared with other countries that are still struggling to beat plastic. Rwanda has lessons and a good record to share.”


For more information, please contact:

Carissa Marnce, GAIA Africa Communications Coordinator


Aphrodice Nshimiyimana, GER Projects Coordinator