UK Firm Loses Plastic Bags Deal

The Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) Monday said it had cancelled a business deal with a UK-based company to supply environmentally friendly plastic bags.

Symphony International was supplying the materials through Alternative Packaging Solution, a local company for the last two years.

The company used to import eight tonnes. The banned bags are normally used to wrap groceries.

Remy Norbert Duhuze, the Director of Environmental Regulation and Pollution Control Unit at REMA, told The New Times that the contract was terminated after realising that the polythene bags which were being supplied were not biodegradable as per the terms of the agreement.

“They convinced us that their plastic bags can be biodegraded. But within six months, we discovered the bags take longer to be biodegraded, we cannot accept that because it’s dangerous to the environment,” Duhuze said.

Degradable plastics are plastics that breakdown in appropriate conditions due either to bacterial activity (biodegradable and compostable plastics) or as a result of physical and chemical impact splitting into small pieces over varying periods of time.

Examples of plastics that break down due to a combination of physical and bacterial activity are oil-based products such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polyethylene, polypropelene and polystyrene.

The New Times has it that Symphony International officials will arrive in the country next week to negotiate with the government over the lost contract. But REMA is contemplating giving the deal to other contractors and some local firms have already presented proposals to take over the deal.

However, Alternative Packaging Solution manager, Leon Sebutakirwa, explained that the problem came about after their supplier sent plastic bags that were meant for Europe instead of Africa.

“We sent the samples that were for African environment and Symphony International sent bags that were for Europe, otherwise our products have no problems”, he said.

According to Sebutakirwa, the plastic bags that are used in Europe spend around three years to be biodegraded, but the ones they wanted take at least a year. He expressed hope that their explanation would be understood.

Research shows that most plastic bags end up in landfills and take long to biodegrade thus posing a threat to the agricultural sector.

Similarly, many animals like cows and goats die once they swallow pieces of the plastic.

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