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UBF injects $120,000 into combating plastic waste

The National Environment Management Authority (Nema) and the Uganda Biodiversity Fund (UBF) have joined efforts to support manufacturers in eliminating the use of plastics in packaging.

The program, set to pilot in July with two packing companies in Wakiso receiving $120,000 (about Shs 450m) in funding from UBF, while Nema and other agencies will provide technical support.

Ivan Amanigamukama, executive director of UBF, revealed this initiative as part of a long-term strategy to combat plastic pollution in the country, in line with the theme of "End Plastic Now" for World Environment Day.

According to Nema statistics, Uganda generates an estimated 600 tonnes of plastic waste annually, primarily from soft drink and water containers, non-biodegradable polythene bags (locally known as "kaveera"), and other packaging materials.

Out of this waste, Nema states that 150 tonnes are generated in Kampala alone, with each citizen contributing at least 1 kilogram of waste daily. Alarmingly, only 40 per cent of urban waste is collected, while the remaining 60 per cent finds its way into water bodies and the soil, leading to environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity.

To address plastic pollution, Nema has implemented measures such as a ban on kaveera below 30 microns and campaigns to promote behavioral change among Ugandans. However, the problem still persists to date. Amanigamukama emphasized the need to tackle plastic pollution at its source, asserting that effective control can only be achieved from the beginning.

He called for regulatory action, a robust policy framework, and behavioral change among individuals to combat the issue. The program aims to substitute plastic packaging materials at the manufacturer level, paving the way for a plastic-free Uganda.

Amanigamukama expressed intentions to work with food and beverage packaging companies, emphasizing the project's potential for replication by neighbouring countries. Collaboration with Nema and other government agencies will provide vital technical support.

Francis Ogwal, senior manager of environmental planning and coordination at Nema emphasized that creating awareness alone is insufficient, and decisive actions are required to address the plastic pollution crisis. Ogwal highlighted the availability of alternatives to plastic and pointed out that the world has previously used them. 

He urged companies to transition away from plastic bottles and embrace more environmentally friendly packaging solutions. Ogwal also highlighted the global target of complete plastic elimination by 2030, which is just seven years away.

By returning to sustainable alternatives like glass bottles, reducing plastic pollution can be achieved. Some companies have already initiated this transition, including the use of glass bottles for soft drinks and even drinking water.

The collaboration between Nema and UBF signifies a crucial step towards addressing plastic packaging pollution in Uganda. With the concerted efforts of regulatory bodies, manufacturers, and individuals, a cleaner and more sustainable future can be realized, aligning with Uganda's constitutional right to a clean environment and the collective responsibility to preserve it.

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