By Kasumba Robert
Recycling of wastes such as plastics and polythene bags is growing day by day on a small scale sector in Kampala. With the increasing rate of Uganda’s population that is now approximately 41.49 million people, it is estimated that over 1,000 tons of solid waste are generated per day in the city from its urban divisions of Makindye, Rubaga, Kawempe, Nakawa and central division.
Plastics and polythene bags dirty the environment as they are unnatural and thus they cannot be dissolved in the soil. This means leaving plastics on the ground disrupts the natural processes of life occurring in the environment.
Mosses Mukiibi, a 21-year-old university student and chief executive officer of the “Hidden Treasure in Trash,” a company that recycles plastics and polythene bags, is one of the few Ugandans who have come up to fight on environmental degradation and specifically the trash in Kampala city.
Mukiibi said he got the inspiration from American entrepreneurs in Texas who made a road 311,000 miles long using nothing but plastics. Mukiibi collects plastic bottles and polythene bags from slum areas; then he heats them on a fire, mixes them with sand and makes coloured plastic cemented pavers that can be used on roads.
“Recycling waste plastics and polythene bags is important to the environment because it removes them from the soil, which increases on soil fertility,” Mukiibi said.
“When plastics are collected and recycled, the drainage system in the city centre is opened, which gives an easy flow of water thus reducing on water logging,” he added.
Sula Mitti, a Local Council chairman in Nalukolongo, a Kampala city suburb, said that waste recycling had helped unblock water channels such as the Nalukolongo water channel that pours its waters into the Lubigyi swamp.
Tenywa added that if the wastes were left unattended, they would rot and emit gases such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that contribute to climate change.
Instead, the group is using such waste to help improve transportation infrastructure in the city. “These few people who have come to carry out waste management are beneficial because they look at waste as raw material,” said Gerald Tenywa, a senior environment reporter.
The removal of plastics and polythene bags also improves agriculture, helping crops germinate well and generating better yields that support livelihoods, according to Lukwago Daniel, an agriculturalist.
Other forms of waste, such as banana peels, are used to form manure.
The benefits aren’t just for the environment: Mukiibi also employs his fellow youth to support in the plastics removal, helping to reduce the country’s high youth unemployment.
The government’s strategy on disposing wastes
According to the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), the management of the law and the system that governs waste management details the effect of the plastics and polythene bags on the environment, as well as the wider context of waste disposal
Kiteezi landfill is one of the areas the government gazetted in 1996 to dispose of wastes. Though it has since been filled up, the Kampala City Council Authority recently unveiled a plan to establish a new landfill at Ddundu Village, Mukono District, where it acquired 135 acres of land.
The government has helped in raising community awareness about the potential economic and environmental benefits gained through recycling and reducing waste by supporting organizations such as Living Earth Uganda and Plastics Recycling Industries Uganda Limited.
Watch a video showing rescycling wastes for better environment Conservation
Waste management is one of the major environmental issues confronting city districts today. In Kampala City, like other urban centers in Uganda and in most developing nations, this is significant service depends on the local government’s centralised transportation and disposal strategy of wastes.
A degenerating environment is an enemy of sustainable development.. Protecting the environment is not an alternative to economic development, but a precondition of effective financial advancement. Mukiibi and his team at “Hidden Treasure in Trash” hope their model may provide a two-prong solution not only to excessive trash but also road infrastructure in Kampala city.
By Robert Kasumba