By Deo Wasswa
The Coca-Cola Foundation, and Care and Assistance for Forced Migrants (CAFOMI) have entered in an agreement worth UGX110million programme to help plastic waste collectors in Uganda to resume their business in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Announcing the programme in Kampala, Rotarian George Francis Iwa, CAFOMI Executive Director, said the organizations will support 833 families across Uganda with interventions that will help them return to their employment as plastic waste collectors.
Of the 833 direct beneficiaries, 411 women and 422 men, from 22 districts across Uganda, of whom 63% earn less than UGX one million annually and 21.6% of them are below 22 years of age.
The plastic waste collectors play a vital role in our communities today and we hope that others, especially in the private sector, will emulate Coca-Cola especially during this difficult time of COVID-19. These plastic waste collectors are our environmental heroes, so we commit to continue supporting them,” said Rotarian Iwa at the handover ceremony held at St. Paul Church of Uganda in Mbuya.
The UGX 110 million assistance was contributed to give plastic collectors relief from months of not earning income from plastic waste recycling, and to equip them to return to work safely.
The beneficiaries will receive a package of essential items to enable them to work safely to avoid contracting COVID-19, including face masks and heavy-duty safety gloves, and COVID-19 booklets with guidelines to follow including Dry food rations.
After the COVID-19 pandemic was announced, about 8,000 plastic waste collectors lost their jobs because of the temporary closure of recycling plants, restrictions to transportation, and the dropped value of plastic waste due to global trading conditions. Of the 8,000 plastic waste collectors, 4,400 are estimated to be women.
“Having made a significant improvement in our collection efforts in 2019, the system was hugely affected by the negative impact of the lock down. Our operations were stopped due to lack of market for our flakes, and consequently the entire chain was brought to a standstill as we couldn’t take in any more due to high stocks of materials previously collected,” said Samuel Kangave, Plant Manager of Plastic Recycling Industry (PRI).
“We know we cannot do it alone. That is why we work with different partners on the ground to see that we collect and recycle as much plastic as we produce. Plastic waste collectors are dear to Coca-Cola since we depend on each other in many ways. Collecting plastic waste is a source of livelihood to them and yet at the same time, they are ridding our environment of the would-be harmful plastics which helps us in our cause,” said Ms. Diana Apio Kasyate, Relations Manager, Coca-Cola East and Central Africa Franchise.
“As a business, we believe that we can only be successful to meet our sustainability goal of collecting all the plastic we put out by encouraging and supporting the women and men who labor day and night to ensure this is done consistently. We can’t be successful without them, and therefore we are in this together all the way,” she said.
Study estimates suggest that an average of 1,500 tons of plastic waste is generated daily with only 500 tons of that being properly managed. This implies that most of the waste generated is not recycled and goes back to the environment, affecting the land and water, and our future.