Living off plastic waste
Posted Tuesday, March 5 2013 at 02:00
Probable income. Saleh a plastic waste dealer in Soroti can earn about Shs4.5m from the four trips of 1,300kg he makes in a year.
Worn out by work; Mr Ismail Saleh’s life tells of the story of a plastic waste dealer. His forehead, lost in beads of sweat, is a demonstration of how far he has to struggle to make ends meet.
For about five hours he has been seated through a bumpy trip that would later lead him to the point of sale for his plastic waste - the Nakawa industrial area based Plastic Recycling Industries, a division of Rwenzori Bottling Company Limited.
Here, he hopes to fetch some good cash from his 1,200 kilogrammes of plastic waste including used mineral water bottles, old basins and Jerrycans among others.
A kilogramme of plastic waste can go for as high as Shs1,000 considering the category as graded at the plant. “I am terribly tired but at least am finally here,” Saleh grins feeling relieved at last.
His story dates back seven years when he sought to release himself from the biting pangs of poverty.
“With just an average education I could not think of looking for a job and I could not count on my family since their story was even more wretched than mine.”
“In the end I had to settle for anything and this is how I ended up dealing in plastic waste which for seven years has lifted my livelihood.”
His trade started at an Indian recycling plant in Jinja, however as time went on, his Indian colleagues proved cunning and tricky to deal with.
According to Saleh, they could revise prices downwards and could at some point send away dealers for failing to respect purchasing days of Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
“One time I had spent Shs70,000 on transport forgetting that it was a Tuesday, when I reached the plant they [Indian colleagues] told me to carry my goods back to Soroti or find space elsewhere to keep them.”
“I really struggled to take this in but prayed not to do anything stupid since they were the only buyers for my collections.” However, the misery that I went through while dealing with the Indians urged me to seek out alternatives.
At the beginning of 2011 my dealings with the Indians scraped through some of its lowest moments forcing me to intensify the search for a new buyer for my merchandise. And as luck would have it, a friend linked me with Mr Naphtal Obbo Owor, the Rwenzori Bottling Company - Plastic Recycling Division collection manager.
This, according to Saleh, has become his point of redemption as less disappointments have been registered ever since he started dealing with the recycling division a year ago.
Unlike the Indians in Jinja, Saleh says, the recycling division is managed professionally and everything is well communicated.
“For instance, he says: “When I started dealing with them, a kilogramme of plastic would cost Shs1,000, however, when it was adjusted to Shs900 a proper explanation was given.”
“This type of communication makes me feel valued and part of the company despite the fact that I am an outsider.”
Saleh can in a particular year delivered plastic waste to the plant four times fetching about a million shilling on every trip. In February he says: “I delivered 1,341 kilogrammes of plastic waste and got paid Shs1.1.
Therefore if am able to collect enough plastic for the four trips, I will get about Shs4.5 million.”
There are over 40 bottled water manufacturing companies in Uganda and currently, most of the carbonated drinks in the country are packaged in PET bottles.
Plastic waste also includes other household products that are packaged in plastic bottles, tins and containers.