Creativity, love for nature liberates community from non-biodegradable waste

Mr Frank Matovu at one of the green houses constructed from used plastics at Bethany Land Institute, Nandere Catholic Parish in Luweero District on January 28, 2024. PHOTOS | DAN WANDERA

What you need to know:

  • At Nandere hill, no single piece of the non-biodegradable waste is burnt. While several of the reasons fronted include that of re-purposing for other uses, they also acknowledge the fact that the smoke and fumes from the burning non-biodegradable waste is a potential health hazard.

After unsuccessful attempts to have the non-biodegradable waste disposed of through recycling, a re-use option project has made Nandere hill community in Luweero District free from littered waste.

While the biodegradable waste could easily be turned into manure among other products, the used polythene bags, plastic bottles were a discomfort to the community at Nandere Catholic Parish and their neighborhoods.

Rev Fr Mathias Jooga, the Parish Priest at Nandere Parish, under Kasana-Luweero Diocese says the Nature Conservation approach spearheaded by Bethany Land Institute partly explains why you don’t come across any plastic waste at Nandere but get attracted to the products from the used plastic material.

“We are proud of the spirit of nature conservation cultivated by the community at Nandere hill and its neighborhood. I pray that the culture spreads to other areas. Mother earth is not safe unless we adapt to nature conservation. We have a role to play. This is what we have tried to do at Nandere hill,” he says.

Ms Gorreti Nabakooza, a congregant at Our Lady of Grace Nandere Catholic Church on Nandere hill says that while she lives about 2kms away from Nandere hill, she has already adopted some of the practices including the re-use of the plastic bottles for a variety of activities including home gardening.

“There is a lot of freshness when you get to Nandere hill. There is no littered plastic material. We are picking lessons on how to reuse the waste plastics without dumping in areas where they spoil our soils and leave our environment endangered. I now make use of the used plastic bottles,” she says.

Mr Sylvester Kule, an Environment activist and Projects Coordinator at Bethany Land Institute says the love to nature a natural environment devoid of manageable pollutants is the reason behind many conservation approaches including the re-use of the non-biodegradable waste material in the absence of the recycling plant by the community at Nandere hill.

“Because we are promoting agro-ecology, the promotion of a clean eco-system devoid of synthetic fibers, pesticides, fertilizers and the poor waste disposal culture is what we are cultivating. We have come to appreciate the culture of leading by example. You can hardly come across any used polythene bags and used plastic bottles around this area. They have been collected and put good use without endangering the environment,” he says.

And the same spirit and culture has been extended to the nearby villages through deliberate outreach programmes that begin with sensitisation of the community and the practical work done through collecting all the abandoned non-biodegradable waste.

We appreciate the fact that our people take a long time to appreciate but they have since picked our example and are managing the non –biodegradable waste. Construction of the green houses, tree huts at our natural forest and the gardens are among the many uses of the non-biodegradable waste, Mr Kule explains.

At one of the demonstrations on Nandere hill are green houses built out of the used plastic bottles while the different plastic and synthetic fiber material is never left to waste but used for the different purposes.

“We do not throw away the other non-biodegradable waste including the polythene bags among other materials that are not used plastic bottles because we can absorb all the non-biodegradable waste for different purposes. We are now collecting the polythene bags that we compact inside the used water bottles for strong building materials,” Mr Frank Matovu in charge of the waste conversion projects at Bethany Land Institute reveals.

Why plastics;        

Because used plastics including water bottles form more than 70 percent of the non-biodegradable waste in many parts of Uganda, laying strategies for reuse formed part of the resolutions reached by a group of conservationists at Nandere hill, Luweero District in the year 2021.

Mr Sylvester Kule explains that while a bigger section of the members thought about collecting the non-biodegradable waste for recycling purposes, getting a recycling plant was a big challenge.

“Yes we could afford to collect the waste and have several heaps ready for recycling but we did not have the capacity to get the machines to do the work. The next option was on how we can make use of the waste without harming our environment. This formed our next stage. We had already resolved to be a model community championing environment awareness,” he says.

In Uganda halting the manufacture of single use plastic is still a big dream. Polythene bags and plastic bottles are used at all levels and we are not about to stop their manufacture but we have the capacity to stop the littering and carefully reuse the non-biodegradable material, he adds.

Beneficiary communities;

Because Nandere hill has more than six institutions of learning including the Church community, sensitization of the children and adults at the respective institutions about the dangers of the littered non-biodegradable waste has not been a big challenge. The learning institutions that include two primary schools, 2 secondary schools and Seminary and the land institute possibly offered a great opportunity to spread the gospel of the non-biodegradable waste management.

The schools include St John’s SS Nandere, St Kizito Seminary, St Thereza Boys Primary school and St Thereza Girls Primary school, all located on Nandere hill.

“The six institutions located at Nandere hill are doing well in areas of creating awareness. We have also extended the sensitization using the outreach programme to Kikunganya, Kisooba, Mubanda, Luyobyo, Bbaale and Waluleta villages as part of the campaign to save our environment. The biggest consumers of the non-biodegradable waste that we collect are ourselves. We have a variety of activities that can consume the non-degradable waste,” Mr Kule reveals.

Mr Fred Kasasa, the LC3 Chairperson at Nyimbwa Subcounty that takes charge of Nandere hill area reveals that the conservation approach at Nandere hill has partly transformed the behavior of many people in Nyimbwa Subcounty.

“I have been part of the beneficiaries of the clean environment approach picked from Nandere hill. I have learnt to collect the used plastics around my home to save the environment. If all our people borrow the approach used at Nandere hill, our environment will be better. We can reuse the plastic bottles,” he says.

No burning;

It is a big practice among the community that the non-biodegradable waste is burnt in the open air as means of disposing of the waste, a practice condemned by health experts over the many health related hazards.

But at Nandere hill, no single piece of the non-biodegradable waste is burnt. While several of the reasons fronted include that of re-purposing for other uses, they also acknowledge the fact that the smoke and fumes from the burning non-biodegradable waste is a potential health hazard.

Non-degradable waste, a big challenge;

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)statistics show that more than 400 million tons of plastics are produced annually Worldwide with half of the production designed for single use. Statistics also show that less than 10% of the used plastics are recycled while an estimated 19 to 23 million tones of the used plastics end up into the different water bodies.

The National Environment Authority status Report for the year 2022 shows that Uganda consumes up to 600 metric tons of plastic waste a day and that only 6 percent is collected for recycling and the reuse purpose.

Health experts have condemned the practice of open air burning of the non-biodegradable waste material now linked to the production of hazardous chemicals that include; Benzo (a), Pyrene (BAP) and Polyaromatic hydrocarbons that are linked to causing the Cancer disease.

The other human health complications resulting from air pollution caused by open burning of plastics include; eye and nose irritations, difficulty in breathing, lung infections, Pneumonia and Bronchitis.

Environmentalists, public react;

Mr Edward Mwambu Masaba, a Community Health practitioner attached to Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA) believes that the careless disposal of the non-biodegradable waste partly accounts to the many health complications reported in the different communities.

“We should not allow our people to burn the used plastics in the open air. If we have the opportunity to repurpose and possibly make the waste reusable, that is great. We need to support the effort to have such material disposed of professionally,” he says.

Ms Gladys Namirimu Kisakye, an educationalist and a school proprietor is among the category of people disturbed by the poor disposal practices for the non-degradable waste both in the urban and rural settings.

“We should all be redirecting our efforts to the proper management of the non-biodegradable waste. At the school where I play an administrative role, we are repurposing the used plastics especially the plastic bottles for decorations, garden frames among other uses. We are only disturbed by the polythene bags that remain a problem,” she says.