Not so long ago, Rwanda suffered from an all-too-familiar problem in Africa: billions of plastic bags choking waterways and destroying entire ecosystems. To fight this scourge of the environment, the government launched a radical policy to ban all non-biodegradable plastic from the country.
Since 2008, anyone arriving in Rwanda is ordered to give up their plastic or have it confiscated. Flight attendants pre-warn passengers as they land in the capital Kigali and authorities are braced to seize this new form of contraband at the border with other African nations.
As with many other illegal goods, plastic bag trafficking has become lucrative and offenders can end up in jail.
While Rwanda has been hailed for transforming its landscape, certain businesses have suffered as a result of the law. The alternative to plastic bags is paper, which is both more expensive and less durable.
In this first episode of Down to Earth, we travel to Rwanda to investigate whether banning plastic is an untenable attempt at preserving the environment or an audacious policy that serves as a lesson to the rest of the continent.
A programme produced in association with African Development Bank