The Radio and Plasma Waves (RPW) instrument on the ESA Solar Orbiter mission is designed to measure in situ magnetic and electric fields and waves from the continuum up to several hundred kHz. The RPW also observes solar and heliospheric radio emissions up to 16 MHz. It was switched on and its antennae were successfully deployed two days after the launch of Solar Orbiter on February 10, 2020. Since then, the instrument has acquired enough data to make it possible to assess its performance and the electromagnetic disturbances it experiences. In this article, we assess its scientific performance and present the first RPW observations. In particular, we focus on a statistical analysis of the first observations of interplanetary dust by the instrument's Thermal Noise Receiver. We also review the electro-magnetic disturbances that RPW suffers, especially those which potential users of the instrument data should be aware of before starting their research work.