The Plastic Cops

“Smugglers can receive up to six months in jail.” That statement alone left me reeling from the absurdness of this article (A vigilant Rwanda is winning the war on plastic bags ). These individuals were not smuggling drugs, animals, or humans! They were smuggling plastic bags. I mean really YES they are bad for the environment. I don’t disagree with  Mberabagaboo,  “Plastic bags, which take hundreds of years to degrade, are a major global issue, blamed for clogging oceans and killing marine life. In Rwanda, the authorities say the bags contribute to flooding and prevent crops from growing because rainwater can’t penetrate the soil when it is littered with plastic.” Sad, yes, but to lock someone up for six months is just ridiculous. Furthermore, why do those in authority think locking someone up is always the solution?

It is also clear reading this piece that a lot more can be achieved by educating the community and perhaps providing them with one or two reusable bags. My suggestion would be for the government to hire a group of individuals to sew bags out of various fabrics. However, as I continue to read this article I learned “There is a dispute between environmentalists and representatives of the plastic industry who say that bags made of alternative materials, like cloth, have a bigger carbon footprint than plastic ones and aren’t as environmentally friendly as people think. Plastic bags should be reused and recycled instead, they argue.”

I mean, really, this just leaves me shaking my head as these individuals have no solution. Bureaucracy is at its strongest, affecting their livelihood. Hell, even supermarkets caught selling food in plastic packaging are shut down until they pay a fine and write an apology. Two officials from Rwanda’s Environment Management Authority recently went on a spontaneous inspection of shops in Kigali, posing as customers. By the end of the hour, they had already padlocked three stores and fined the owners a few hundred dollars each for selling bread wrapped in cellophane, using biodegradable bags for vegetables and cookies, or selling flour packaged in plastic instead of paper. Now this is creating a food desert. I am no longer sure how we can fix this issue, but I do know it is an issue of injustice.


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