Innovators in Gulu Spearheads plastic Recycling as it’s Production boosts globally

Okello’s daily contribution of picking plastic bottles plays a part in saving the environment

Takataka and Sai art gallery in Gulu city plastic cycling as the production of plastics doubles in the world. With Young innovators that have emerged, with different ideas for solving climate change effects due to improper plastic disposal and forth, creators in Gulu city are at the forefront for climate change actions in Uganda. With the rate of production growing exponentially, and a poor disposal culture across the world, we are drawing closer to facing the wrath of nature and a backlash of the effects of plastic pollution.

(Sound illustrating the rate of global production of plastic overtime)

Every plastic bag, bottle, or any item dumped is a reckless contribution toward low crop yields, rising sea levels, and dead aquatic life, flooding in cities from blocked drainages among a whole list of other countless effects.

But what you may not have known about plastic is that only 9% of all plastic produced is recycled. A whopping 2 million plastic bags are used every minute worldwide, and every minute of every day a truckload of plastic is ejected into the ocean. 73% of beach litter worldwide is plastic, and about a million plastic bottles are bought every minute, and it is predicted that there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050.

Up to 95% of plastic polluting oceans is said to be carried by 10 rivers. In Uganda today, 600 tonnes of plastic waste are generated every single day. That is over 219,000 tonnes per year, according to Takataka plastics In Gulu.

An average person eats about 70,000 microplastics each year. Just imagine your life span especially in Africa where the average life expectancy is below 69 years of age?

World plastic production has doubled over the years. So while improperly using plastics, You should put in mind that plastic is one of the most dangerous none biodegradable substances on planet earth.

According to research conducted for the journal of Environmental and Public Health, plastic contributes 37% of waste in households forming the biggest proportions alongside food waste. In the same research, 35.9% of the households disposed of plastic by open dumping while 27% disposed of it by combustion. People’s willingness was tested and most were willing to change their disposal practices which indicated the need for community engagement to work the issue of proper disposal. Okello’s daily contribution of picking plastic bottles plays a part in saving the environment.

Okello’s daily contribution of picking plastic bottles plays a part in saving the environment

Gulu city is one of the few places where community engagement has been in practice to ensure a reduction in the impact of plastic waste through proper disposal. From the city entrance, one can notice the rather clean streets with little to no littering compared to most parts of the country. There are several plastic collection points across the city where people have been programmed to dump plastic bottles after using them for people who repurpose them. The most interesting thing is that the engagement has attracted the involvement of almost every single person in the area.

Okello Emmanuel, a street-connected youth, is one of the people that actively help in collecting these plastic bottles in a bid to save the environment.

Watch the video by following this link to see how

While many have embraced proper disposal in the designated collection points, some still have a ‘myopic‘ attitude since the effects are too distant. It is quite challenging that people still get to dump plastic waste on the roadside and in open places necessitating street collection as depicted in the video.

In a distance of about 1.4km, about 45-50kgs of plastic were collected in a city where littering has gone down by such a large number. This means that in other parts of the country, especially those with high levels of activity, the same radius would generate a lot more plastic.

What next after collecting the plastic?

Gulu city is about a 6hour drive from the nearest recycling plant. The high transportation costs make it economically unfeasible to send low-value plastic waste for recycling so the plastic is burned, buried, or littered. However, some people have the skills and find the same things we call waste important. Do they not say, one’s meat is another’s poisoned?

Organizations like Takataka Plastics, have taken to changing people’s mindsets about plastic waste disposal from untouchable, dirty “rubbish” to a potential resource impacting their environment. They also recycle plastic waste and make durable products from the waste including chairs, plastic tiles, and diesel among other products.

One tile is made from about 650 bottles of 500ml, an equivalent of 2 carts, or an equivalent of 90-100kgs of plastic bottles.

An example of the pieces of a tile art

While these organizations have the financial muscle to help them make things happen, some individuals do the same using nothing but their talent to repurpose the plastic bottles.

Simon Peter, the founder of Sai Art gallery has for close to 10years been using repurposed plastic waste to make art! Transitioning from ordinary artwork, he started to use not only plastic bottles but 30-micron plastic bags used for packaging as well. Depending on the size of the art piece, he can use plastic to express himself through his passion.

Simon Peter shared that one medium-size art piece uses about 45-50 bottles to complete. In case you are wondering what the pieces look like, here is a sample.

Gulu city mix media art piece from Sai art gallery in Gulu

We also had some fun while at it!

An Art piece of the MCI Logo made out of repurposed plastic.

This goes to show that there is only so much that can be achieved if communities work together, even if only subconsciously. Many African households have mastered the art of reusing plastic which is commendable. For instance, tins that once held things like ice cream hold rice, those that had spices for food have salt, and those that had yogurt work as tumblers for drinking water. While we may not need other forms of plastic, there may be people who can either recycle or repurpose them. It also serves as a challenge for creatives to rethink and strategize anew on ways to turn community challenges into solutions. The community can only achieve through the involvement of everyone, and that is inclusive of especially the community leaders.

People with influence need to call the masses to make proper disposal a part of their daily living. In addition, creating disposal/collection points in different parts of both urban and rural places would be a great place to start. Having people with knowledge of environmental preservation can teach communities to sort their waste to make it easy for processing.

The high demand for packaging is proof enough that plastic is here to stay. That is a good thing because then we don’t have to worry about where to carry things from. What is important is what we do with it after use.

This is why there is a need for mass action in ensuring disposal as well as skilling for people to repurpose plastic. Single-use plastics are illegal in some parts of the world for example in Rwanda.

Some countries and cities have long started recycling single-use plastics by melting them into other products like those we have seen in Gulu city in Uganda.

Written by

Yaddah Wanjiku, Nakiwala Barbra and Mutumba Geoffrey

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