KAMPALA – Conservationists have rallied government and the private sector to hands to realign priorities, rethink approaches and change mindsets toward addressing the dangers of plastics.
Speaking during the launch of Earth Hour, the world’s largest grassroots movement for the environment, David Duli,, Country Director, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Uganda Country Office said the joint campaign will go a long way in developing awareness and conviction among Ugandans and other global citizens to adopt more sustainable alternatives.
“We also call upon the private sector to strengthen the process of recycling including turning plastics waste into other products that do not disrupt the environment. Provision of alternatives will also be critical for adopting the desired change,” said Mr. Duli.
He added: “The future belongs to the young people in this assembly today. We have a role to work very closely with them to attain a No plastic in nature future. Let us shape this future!”
Plastic overconsumption and mismanagement of plastic waste is a growing menace, causing landfills to overflow, choking rivers, and threatening aquatic ecosystems. Experts say, this has a negative impact on sectors that are critical to many economies, including tourism, shipping and fisheries.
Lake Victoria shoreline has emerged as a hot spot for plastic pollution, owing to rapid urbanization and a rising middle class, whose consumption of plastic products and packaging is growing due to their convenience and versatility. But local waste management infrastructure has not kept pace, resulting in large quantities of mismanaged waste.
COVID-19 has exacerbated the situation due to increased consumption of masks, sanitizer bottles and online delivery packaging.
Environmentalists say Lake Victoria and its related ecosystems are threatened by the catastrophic effects of the triple planetary crises – biodiversity breakdown, the climate emergency, and rampant pollution – from decades of unsustainable production, irresponsible consumption, and insufficient waste disposal.
With less than 15% of recyclable plastic recovered and recycled, most plastic packaging waste is not only left to pollute the environment, littering beaches and roadsides, but its value to these economies is also lost.
Data also shows that more than half of these are used and disposed of in and around Kampala and at least 51% of plastic garbage in the city is left uncollected, clogging water channels and posing danger to human lives.
A study conducted on Lake Victoria reveals that 20% of Nile Perch and Tilapia have microplastics in their gut. This is a result of the decomposing and ever-increasing plastic litter in water bodies.
Conservationists joined by WWF, National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and have now reignited a new campaign against plastics aimed at reversing these statistics and shaping a future that will see no plastic in nature.
They have since petitioned the Parliament of Uganda to enact a Law that will cause businesses packing their products in single use plastics to be directly responsible for their litter.
“We also call upon beverage companies to change their packaging to reusable bottles to reduce the amount of plastic waste entering the environment.”
The Patron Uganda Scouts Association who was also the chief guest, General Katumba Wamala tasked cooperate companies and other organizations to sign a pledge board to reduce plastic waste ensure a better and healthier workplace environment.
“Beating plastic pollution and transmitting to sustainable waste management practices requires a strong enabling environment involving all stakeholders including policymakers, informal and formal waste and resource management actors as well as civil organizations,” Gen Katumba Wamala said, urging Ugandans to take serious actions on consecrating nature because future can’t be secured in a distorted environment.
Government with approval of Parliament, some time back in 2009 banned the importation, manufacture and use of polythene bag, popularly known as kavera of gauge below 30 microns.
However, when NEMA tried to implement the ban, Government came out to interfere with NEMA by frustrating its efforts to execute its mandate.
On 15th April 2015 once again NEMA, in a bid to execute its mandate, banned the use, sell, manufacture and importation of the said Kavera. Several Ugandans had started complying with the recommendation as passed by Parliament.
Activists are now concerned that the business community has continued to produce single use plastics including Kavera and influencing Government to lift the ban without providing appropriate remedial solutions to the negative impacts associated with the its use.