While some plastics have been collected by young people foraging the wetlands to have them recycled, a huge chunk remains uncollected. Can recycling end plastic pollution on Lake Victoria?
Plastic waste in one of Kampala's drianages. Most of is floods into Lake Victoria
Wetlands play a crucial role in
purify the water in the lake and run-off by filtering it.
But most of those surrounding Lake Victoria
have been opened up for farming and settlements.
As East Africa joins the rest of the world for
the UN Climate Change Conference later this month, environmentalists say
delegates should find a solutions to the plastic waste crisis along rivers
While some have noted that Lake
Victoria is dying “from the bottom” due to plastics, an activist from National
Association of Professional Environmentalists(NAPE) Sostire Namanya fears that we
may end up with more plastics than fish in Victoria.
As the Lake chocks with visible plastics
in form of soft drink bottles, and other plastics , the extent of micro plastics is yet to be
While some plastics have been
collected by young people foraging the wetlands to have them recycled, a huge
chunk remains uncollected. Can recycling end plastic pollution on Lake Victoria?
Allan, Obbo is a teacher, every time he takes a bottle of
water or soda bottles in plastics, he keeps it in his bag. He has built himself a resort in the outskirts
of Mukono one of the districts near Lake Victoria.
“Research tells us that
plastic is very dangerous to the environment. look at the trenches in Kampala.
All the time they are blocked. Look at our lakes the lakes are chocked. And
research tells us that for this bottle to degrade, it will take us three
hundred years. So if I put it on the building, it even has more life on the building
than when it was on the soil because on the ground it will take three hundred
Behind one of the recently
completed houses whose walls were raised with plastic bottles stands a huge
pile of plastics from Rwenzori water, Coca-Cola, tangawizi and name it. All if not collected would end in the lake if
not the soils explains Allan Obbo.
“So if I put it on the building, it even has
more life on the building than when it was on the soil because on the ground it
will take three hundred years. So using this bottle as an alternative for
construction, and I want to encourage the citizens of Uganda. Bottles are
everywhere and they are cheap to find. Using them to construct, you will be
really saving the environment. Three hundred year the bottle is in the ground,
not plant can grow where a bottle is” said Obbo
Away from Allan Obbo’s resort,
at Namugona a suburb located next to Lubigi wetland. The papyrus wetland, the
city’s largest, serves as a critical water catchment area for the entirety of
Uganda’s Central Cattle Corridor.
It provides vital social,
environmental and economic functions and has become a popular site for informal
human settlement that is threatening to destroy what is left of Lubigi. Empty
mineral water plastic bottles, polythene bags, plastic cups, and plates,
mention it all, all are right there in wetland, left unattended. Most of that are
given a free lift by running water that takes them into Lake Victoria.
Siraje Siraje Muwaya resides
nearby this wetland. He operates a flower and tree nursery bed business. He has
seen loads and loads of plastics flood the wetlands whenever it rains. He says
it is hard to get the bottles and polythene out of the papyrus.
"I try hard to look
for the polythene bags that are carried by storm water into the wetland when it
rains. I fill the polythene with soil and put my seedlings there. Whenever it
rains, it's time to go deep into the wetland to collect polythene to help with
my business. A lot of plastic comes with storm water" says Muwaya
Worst of all the papyrus
which would have acted as a sieve or to block the bottles into the lake are
quickly disappearing due to encroachment. Part of it has been constructed into,
and the rest in being used to farm crops like yams.
A 2015 World Bank Study
found that 40 percent of Kampala population lives in informal settlements in or
around wetland, and 50 percent of Kampala’s wetland cover had disappeared. We
have not come across a fresh study.
The situation may be worse with more
informal settlement that is threatening to destroy what is left of Lubigi.
In Kampala, about 28,000
tons of waste is collected and delivered to Kitezi landfill every month.
Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) records show that this represents about
40% of the waste generated in the city.
Upon arrival at Kitezi,
the waste is weighed and after dumping it is processed by waste pickers, also
known as scavengers, for removal of material with a market value, for example,
paper, metals, and plastics.
Sostire Namanya, is an
activist with the National Association of Professional Environmentalists ( NAPE
). She says some plastic actually end up in the lake invisibly as it’s carried
away after peeling into very small particles.
" The thing about plastic
is that it doesn't compose so it keeps peeling slowly by slowly so you ask
yourself those small things that peel off a plastic bottle or a plastic paper
where do they go because they are tinny, you can't see them so either the fish
eat it or we drink it in our water and probably that is also the reason why we're
seeing more increase of things like cancer. And then water pollution, more
households are depending on the lake to get water either for domestic use as
consume that, we use that to cook and that ends up in our bodies so the
question is, in the next thirty to fifty years we might not be having normal
functioning because of the overtime consumption of water that is actually
polluted" says Namanya
According to a recent
study in Kenya, found that apart from drinking bottles, no-drinking bottles had
the highest leakage to lakes like Victoria and the Indian Ocean. Most leakage
from Kenya was from the packaging.
Back in Kampala, Jude
Byansi manages water and sanitation at the Kampala Capital City Authority -KCCA
says the amount of polyethylene in the city’s garbage is growing.
"We are having a very
big challenge of plastics especially when it comes to PET plastics, or plastics
which are used to make bottles, that's a lot of it. And if you're to estimate,
the city has around 132 tonnes of plastics generated on a daily and of which we
can only recover only five percent" Byansi says
And most of them are blown by
wind into Lake Victoria. Others are given a free lift by running water that
takes them into the lake.
Can recycling and reuse offer a solution?
So far about 40 companies
in Uganda are engaged in recycling plastics in the country.
One of these is Pipeline
Design and Foam Industries recycling plant in Gayaza,
Eng. Alfred Kasereka, is
the manager there. He says they crash
over 30 tons of plastic waste every day.
"Ugandans take long
and for instance now like this people who are patient, we need people who are
motivated where by our company does it also. We train, we sensitize and then
even motivate some of them so that they are in. And we normally give them a say
that there is value in waste so that they keep on moving"But he but he
says just a small of plastics end up here.
Without proper plastic waste management practices and regulation, more
and more forms of plastics will end up at waste bins and of course Lake
And why not ask the polluters or manufacturers of water, soft drinks,
energy drinks, bottles waragi and name it suggests Kasereka
Moses Ategeka, is the
Executive Director of Uganda Plastic Manufacturers and Recyclers Association
" Proper microns of
plastics must be produced on the market, that legislation alone is a good
strategy, legislation is good, where we don't look at collection now and we
look at legislation. If we tell the manufacturers make sure you produce the
right microns, don't put fake products on the market it will be fine and when
you have institutions of government like UNBS (Uganda National Bureau of
Statistics), you have NEMA (National Environmental Management Authority) you
have all those ones and we tell you as an association, because we're the
regulatory body now at the level of production, we tell you go to this
gentleman, he's producing wrong micron, be there and don't take a bribe, go and
fix him so that tomorrow we have a better place to be by if you go and pick
money from a fake manufacturer then you're actually increasing the
problem" said Ategeka
Ategeka says people don’t
know this and need to be enlightened more because plastic pollution in Uganda
has been popularized to mean Kaveera only yet the country is choking on plastic
pollution in the form of non-thought about items.
"And we have told
people, plastic is not about kaveera because kaveera percent is only one
percent and then we have plastic straws, plastic bottles, plastic bottles
plastic, basins, you don't talk about them where do they end, they end up in
the environment. When you're scientifically looking at solutions because we
live by science. We must look at recycling as ultimate and unbeatable
unbwogable because it's gonna help our countries in the region to control
plastic littering. It's only Egypt and South Africa that have much better
emphasis and Uganda has also replicated" explains Ategeka
Unlike in neighboring
Kenya and Rwanda where plastic ban has been effected, it is business as usual
here as politicians and those business interests in plastics rise up each time
banning plastic comes.
For now, Sostra
Namanya is worried that we may end up with more plastics tan fish in parts of
"The way the fish
actually breed and live, their habitat have been actually disrupted...There are
these disturbing images that I was in France three weeks ago attending the ICM
Congress and one of the people that exhibited, they exhibited how you see fish
wrapped up in a glove, they took an underground picture and the fish was
literally entering into the glove, these gloves that we use in hospitals and
etc. So that means such a fish is not going to survive, it's not going to
survive and that why I am saying we'll find more plastic in Lake Victoria
compared to the fish" says Namanya
Now with more droughts
and floods from warming of the earth, there no choice of everyone playing his
or her role from saving Victoria from the plastic waste Or else will not have
water in the Lake. We shall have all fisheries depleted.