Ahead of World Environment Day slated for Monday, June 5, 2023, environmentalists have called for concerted efforts against plastic pollution, saying the survival of the human race hinges on the physical environment.
The activists made the call on Friday during a dialogue organised by Caritas Uganda together with the Uganda Farmers Voice Platform to support further reflection on the plastic crisis in the country and how best the law can be enforced to help reverse the rising plastic pollution.
In Uganda, the rising plastic pollution has been attributed to poor habits such as open dumping, lack of resilience to conserve the environment, among others. Environmentalists say most districts in Uganda lack designated dumping sites, something that makes it hard to manage the waste.
Addressing fellow environmentalists at Hotel Africana in Kampala, Rev. Fr. Hillary Muhezagago, the National Director, Caritas Uganda revealed that by 2019, the world had produced 9.5 billion tonnes of plastics, which he says is more than 1 tonne of plastic per person.
Muhezagago says a small fraction of plastics produced worldwide is recycled as the rest end up in water bodies, drainage systems, and the soil.
“Apart from pollution, the use of plastics in homes and public institutions such as schools, continues to pose serious health risks. Research has indicated that potentially harmful chemicals are passed by plastics into food,” Muhezagago said before urging Ugandans to join hands in taking action against plastic pollution.
Anne Nakafero, the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) district support officer noted that world over, there is overreliance on plastics, especially single-use plastics. She says it has been documented that the world uses 5 million plastic bags yearly, adding that 8 million tonnes of plastics end up in the ocean.
“… that globally we buy 1 million plastic bottles every minute. This is quite high, especially in developing countries where our resilience is low. Resilience in terms of health, climate change, food security, and in terms of fighting diseases,” she said.
“I go on to say again that 50% of the plastics we use are single-use and they are very difficult to manage, especially in developing countries, and yet plastic makes up 10% of all the waste that we generate,” Nakafero added.
In 1972, the United Nations General Assembly created the World Environment Day (WED) to highlight the significance of the threats of ecological degeneration and encourage worldwide awareness and action for the environment.
In Uganda, the global campaign has seen the enactment of laws and policies on the environment and creation of agencies, such as NEMA to enforce compliance. The principal law governing the management of the environment in Uganda is the National Environment Act, 2019.
The law provides for institutional frameworks at national and local levels, offences against the environment, and sanctions. Section 76(4) of the Act, specifically, addresses plastic pollution, which is the central theme of this year’s WED. It bans the manufacture, importation, and exportation of plastic carrier materials below 30 microns.