Environmentalists call for mindset change in fight against plastic pollution

 Parliament’s Committee on Natural Resources chairperson Emmanuel Otaala and CSBAG executive director Julius Mukunda gesture during an environmental report release in Kampala on May 28, 2024. PHOTO/MICHAEL AGABA

What you need to know:

  • NEMA say they are committed to using the NEMA Act, 2019, to control plastic and other forms of environmental degradation.

Environmentalists have urged government to concentrate on mindset change in fighting plastic pollution instead of enacting legislations that call for a blanket ban.

Environmentalists say existing legislations are enough to deal with plastic pollution and other forms of environmental degradation only if government works on implementing laws, beginning with mass sensitization on the dangers of littering, among others.

On Tuesday, Parliament Committee on Natural Resources chairperson Emmanuel Otaala urged Ugandans to desist thinking only the government is responsible for plastic waste management.

 “We should not be saying government has failed. That is why plastics are being thrown everywhere littering the land. We have a role to play in ending this global pandemic,” he said at the release of a report showing citizens' overwhelming support for strong global rules to end plastic pollution.

The report, which was authored by WWF, a conservation organisation, together with the Plastic Free Foundation and conducted in 32 countries around the world, including Uganda, indicated that majority of Ugandans want manufacturers to cover the cost of reuse and recycling of plastic waste in the country.

But Paul Twebaze, a research officer at Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE), a policy think tank, also argued that changing values and behaviour are key to ending plastic pollution rather than relying on law enforcement.

“You go to the supermarket, and buy one piece of soap, which is already packed, but you also want it packed in a kaveera. That is an issue of behavior change. We have seen people driving expensive cars but still dropping or littering plastic waste after using them in the road,” Twebaze explained.

WWF country director Ivan Tumuhimbiise challenged policymakers on the best decisions to take in terms of dealing with single-use plastics.

“Global discussions on plastic pollution are ongoing, and a treaty is expected to be signed later this year. One of the key questions is whether we are ready to ban single-use plastics. Currently, only 9% of plastic waste is recycled. As we consider banning single-use plastics, we must also examine our own behavior, culture, and preferences. Are we ready for policy change and behavior change?” he said.

The Uganda National Environment Management Act 2019 stipulates that a person who imports or manufactures plastics shall as a precondition for continued operation; ensure that recycling is part of the active operations.

However, implementation and enforcement of this law remains a pipe dream.

However, the executive director of Uganda Plastics Manufacturers and Recyclers Association Moses Ategekan said: “Whereas plastics are very harmful to the environment and should be regulated, the government should be aware that a total ban will be detrimental to the economy.”

NEMA senior environment inspector Monica Angom emphasized that the Authority is committed to using the NEMA Act, 2019, to control plastic and other forms of environmental degradation.