Rapid population growth, urbanization, and industrial growth have led to severe waste management problems in Uganda and around the globe.

By Guest Writer

OPINION: As we celebrate World Environmental Day on June 5, 2023, under the theme” Solutions to Plastic Pollution,”, Ugandans should question actions taken to create a clean environment.

Negligence in the form of littering plastics irresponsibly creates deep damage to the environment on account of the fact that the genesis of plastic pollution is poor disposal.

Let’s combine efforts to fight plastic pollution in Uganda since plastics are a nemesis to fisheries and agriculture, which are great sources of income for most Ugandans.

Plastics are primarily non-biodegradable. When left on land for a long time, the plastics are known to leach toxic chemicals into the soil, thereby contaminating water bodies and plants.

In addition, plastics are made from oil with a highly polluting production process. Plastics just do not dissolve; they break down into microparticles that circulate in the environment. For instance, a single water bottle can take up to 1000 years to break down.

Rapid population growth, urbanization, and industrial growth have led to severe waste management problems in Uganda and around the globe.

The growth in the use of plastics is the biggest contributor to environmental degradation today. Plastic, as a synthetic polymer substitute for natural materials, has become an essential asset in packaging products.

A considerable intensification in the production of plastics in the last few decades has simultaneously increased consumption of plastic materials, of which these plastic packaging materials are converted into plastic waste in a short span of time.

Plastic production in the world exceeds 150 million tons per year on average. Its broad range of applications in packaging films, wrapping materials, shopping and garbage bags, fluid containers, clothing, toys, household and industrial products, and building materials has intensified its use.

High consumption of plastics due to affordability and durability has attracted a wide market globally. Companies prefer plastics for packaging to cut costs of production, which clearly indicates that we cannot fully do away with plastics, and that’s why it should be part of our norms to foster proper disposal of plastics.

Further, statistics from the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) show that plastics take up the lion’s share of waste in Uganda, with over 600 metric tons being produced every day throughout the country.

Given that only 40% of this waste is collected and disposed of properly, the remaining 60% finds its way into the environment, leading to a number of problems.

Plastics are resistant to decomposition; natural organisms have a very difficult time breaking down the synthetic chemical bonds in plastic, creating the tremendous problem of the material’s persistence in soil. where it is destined to remain entombed in limbo for hundreds of thousands of years and toxic compounds are spewed throughout the atmosphere to be accumulated in biotic forms throughout the surrounding ecosystems, thereby causing land, air, and water pollution.

Most drainage channels, rivers, and lakes in Uganda continue to choke on plastic waste, which has contributed to rampant flash floods occurring due to clogging of waterways. In the near future, if we don’t act now, there is likely to be more plastic in our lakes and rivers than fish, which is a disaster for the fisheries.

The effects of plastic on aquatic life are devastating and accelerate suffocation, ingestion, and other macro-particulate causes of death in fish and mammals. The plastic and bioaccumulate in greater and greater concentrations up the food chain, with humans at the top.

Findings from research conducted by the National Fisheries Resources Research Institute discovered microfilms (tiny plastics) of the plastics in the fish population in water bodies in Uganda. This is causing slow fish growth and the deaths of marine animals.

Notably, UBOS estimates that about 70% of Uganda’s working population is employed in agriculture, and in FY 2021/22, agriculture accounted for about 24.1% of GDP and 33% of export earnings, whereas fish is one of the high-value commodities that contribute to economic growth in Uganda.

It contributes 3% to the national GDP and 12% to the agriculture sector’s GDP. Total fish production in 2019 amounted to 602,440.7 metric tons, of which 27,172.7 metric tons were exported. This generated USD 177.7 million for the country in 2019.

In consideration of the enormous economic contribution of fisheries and agriculture, they greatly need to be safeguarded from all forms of hindrances ranging from plastic pollution to drought, among others.

Let’s dispose of plastic responsibly to aid the flourishing of agriculture and fisheries. Plastics are threatening the productivity of our soils and aquatic life. Operationalize laws for poor plastic disposal.

Uganda reviewed the environment law (the National Environment Act No. 5 2019) and banned all plastic carrier bags under 30 microns, and this keeps one wondering what happened to sustainable implementation of the law. I call upon government actors, including the office of the prime minister, the National Bureau of Standards, the Uganda Revenue Authority, and NEMA, to enforce the implementation of the provisions of the law on plastic pollution.

Finally, the government imposed a mandatory condition on all plastic manufacturers to establish recycling plants, which should be fully enforced to increase demand for plastic waste. A clean and safe environment begins with you. practice proper disposal of plastics.

The author is Babra Kembabazi, a concerned citizen.

Disclaimer: We, as UG Reports Media LTD, welcome any opinion by anyone if it’s of constructive use to the development of Uganda. All the expressions and opinions in this write-up are not of UG Reports Media LTD but of the author of the article.

Would you like to share your opinion with us? Please share it with this email: editorial@ugreports.com.

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