How the new normal is creating Uganda into a plastic country.
Early this year, the speaker of Parliament of Uganda, Rebecca Kadaga, launched the World Wide Fund for Natures’ Earth Hour 2020, an environmental campaign against plastic pollution. The campaign that sought to address the effects of massive plastic use and disposal, took off on February 13, 2020 and at that time, it seemed to be a success as it was actually possible to imagine the end of the plastic revolution in Uganda - until Covid-19 knocked in and changed everything.
Since the pandemic started, there was an observable rise in plastic waste in the form of sanitizer bottles, masks, gloves, gowns, disposable wipes, and disinfectants. Both production and purchase of these plastic products have doubled.
As a measure to ease the lockdown that Uganda experienced for a close to four months, President Museveni announced the mandatory use of sanitizers and wearing of masks so as to prevent the spread of the virus.
President Kaguta Museveni in his 13th Covid-19 address, praised the 38 Ugandan local factories producing sanitizers.
But with all the 38 factories producing tons of plastic bottled sanitizers, the country is assured of a plastic revolution that may not end so soon unless sustainable solutions are adopted by the manufacturing factories.
President Kaguta Museveni outlines Uganda’s strategy in his latest address.
Photo Credits: PPU
SSekuuma Pafra, Director of Lavs Enterprises Uganda, a sanitizer manufacturing startup, said that plastic is relevant to the pandemic and cannot be avoided. However, the only effective solution is recycling - that is if Ugandans adopt proper dumping attitudes and behaviors.
“Most Ugandans dump and litter anywhere without thinking twice. It is scientific that people tend to litter more when in littering environments but through raising awareness we could change this behavior’’, SSekuuma emphasized.
On the other hand, health workers have staged boycotts to protest lack of protective equipments in hospitals which puts them at risk of contracting the virus.
The Uganda Medical Association body has also filed several reports showing that 22 pregnant women who were due for cesarean section were not operated because health workers lacked masks, gloves, and sanitizers.
“The situation is critical. Many people are working without Proper Protective Equipement,’’ Dr. Mukuzi Muhereza, the secretary general for the Uganda’s health workers body warned in a press meeting held last June 2.
WHO officials in March advised companies around the world to increase production by 40% if possible to meet the growing demand. However, the problem is that poor countries with few resources and raw materials will face the wrath of paying high prices in an extremely competitive global market.
With this situation, the country is in great demand of products that are “plastic-based” and it is feared that this solution might be the next crisis Uganda may fight since plastic pollution poses great danger to environment contributing to climate change.
“The government should encourage manufacturers to look for eco-friendly packaging materials and enforce proper dumping so as to control the problem of plastic pollution before it escalates,’’ SSekuuma advised.
In 2019, Uganda reviewed its environment law and banned all plastic carrier bags under 30 microns to control plastic pollution. But the law fell on deaf ears as plastic bags are more prevalent in Uganda than ever.
Today, the only way to protect the environment is by individuals to act responsible, avoid reckless disposal and being thoughtful about nature. Although small, this could be a flicker of hope for the Ugandans to prevent an environmental crisis in the future.
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