As Uganda prepares to commemorate World Environment Day 2023, the National Environment Authority, NEMA and other stakeholders including Uganda Biodiversity Fund, have held a cleanup exercise to raise awareness about the urgent need to stop plastic pollution.
Led by NEMA, the initiative aimed to demonstrate the adverse effects of plastic waste and encourage individuals to actively participate in maintaining a clean and healthy environment.
The activity took place on Friday morning at Balintuma Zone, Kiwaatule, a Kampala suburb.
Uganda will join the rest of the international community to commemorate World Environment Day on Monday 5th June 2023 under the theme “Stop Plastic Pollution Now”.
Mr. Ogwal Francis, the senior manager for environment planning and coordination at NEMA, emphasized the seriousness of the plastic problem in Uganda.
“Almost every household in Uganda uses plastics. Plastics are pervasive, from household use to marketplaces and offices. The magnitude of the problem requires us to take immediate action,” he told the media.
Ogwal highlighted the importance of bridging the gap between awareness and action. “Creating awareness is not enough. We must walk the talk and mobilize communities to make plastic waste removal a continuous effort. We need to cultivate a culture of greenness, where every individual takes responsibility for removing plastic waste from their surroundings,” he said.
He further acknowledged the financial cost of cleaning up the environment. While he did not provide specific figures, he stressed that the expenses were significant, running into billions of Ugandan shillings. These costs could be better utilized elsewhere if plastic pollution was prevented in the first place.
Addressing the issue of convenience, Ogwal proposed transitioning away from single-use plastics. He pointed out that returning to the use of glass bottles for beverages, as was done in the past, would substantially reduce plastic waste generated by soda consumption.
He commended the companies that have already taken steps to transition to environmentally friendly packaging, such as glass bottles for water.
Regarding the way forward for plastic-producing companies, Ogwal emphasized the need for a transition toward sustainable alternatives. He noted that global action plans have already been established, with the aim of phasing out or eliminating plastics by 2030.
He called on individuals to recognize the health risks associated with plastics, particularly in relation to cancer, and to prioritize the long-term well-being of the population over short-term convenience.
“We need to avoid some of those very, very scary moments in life about having cancer from plastics. Let us all appreciate that we don’t need to use these plastics. It’s not going to make us healthy at all. We are going to be sick people. By the time cancer comes, the treatment and suffering are terrible. So why wouldn’t we avoid those moments and prioritize our well-being?” wondered Ogwal.