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Recycling Household Solid Waste, Part 2

This is the second article in a two-part series about recycling in Kampala. The first article in The Eye’s December 2011/January 2012 edition discussed plastics. This article offers options for recycling metal, paper and glass. As with my first article, the suggestions in this article are far from exhaustive. Recycling in Kampala in many instances is better framed as “repurposing” and reusing items either directly in your household or by other individuals or community-based groups. It is incumbent upon you to identify the recipients and strategies that work for you!

Among recyclable products in Uganda, the market for scrap metal is the best established. If you need proof, look around you. Do you see scrap metal lying around in Kampala’s empty lots and ditches? It is a commodity whose value is well understood by the population.

ISU international school of Uganda -

When I started looking for metal buyers, I was surprised to find one just 200 meters from my gate. There generally are a few metal buyers in every neighborhood trading center. Ask around or look for “We Buy Scrap” (or, more often, “Scarp”) signs or hanging scales on unassuming kiosks along the road. Your neighborhood metal collector will buy steel (500 ugx/kg), soft and hard aluminum (2,000 ugx/kg), brass (4,000 ugx/kg) and copper (7,000 ugx/kg) on the spot and sell it on to larger collectors for a small profit. These buyers transport steel and aluminum for resale to factories in Jinja, Mukono and Mbarara that produce construction materials. At present, copper and brass are not recycled in Uganda and so are sold to dealers in Nairobi.

At a household level, your most likely metal items for recycling probably will be tins from canned food items and aluminum foil sheets and food containers (please clean before selling). However, your metal buyer is happy to accept anything – pipes, railings, barbed wire, car bodies… I’m not kidding!

One last note about metal: your local metal buyer will not accept the tops (crowns) of beer and soft drink bottles. Luckily, you can take these to the Banana Boat store in Kisimente, who will pass them on to individuals who make handicrafts out of them.

There is a huge demand for all kinds of used paper in Kampala. Potential recipients of used paper are discussed below by the type of paper they need.

Stationery. If you’re a fan of the recycled paper products you find in Banana Boat, perhaps you’d like to donate your used white computer paper to the group that makes them: PaperCraft. Its workshop is located about 22 km south of Kampala on Entebbe Rd (coming from Kampala, look for a big, open graded area on the right and signs for Namulanda Technical Institute and Serenity Center). PaperCraft used to have a relationship with one of the major banks in Kampala that met a large portion of its paper needs but, unfortunately, that partnership no longer is in place. PaperCraft now is forced to buy used paper on the local market, which is a big expense. If you or your business are able to donate your used white paper (preferably shredded), PaperCraft would be grateful! For more information, contact Harriet Ritah Nantale on tel: 0772 986 957 or 0782 224 026.

Another option is to sell your used stationery. Global Paper Products in Kampala buys used stationery to produce its luxury toilet paper, serviettes (napkins) and facial tissues. If you have at least one ton of paper, Global Paper Products will buy it directly from you. Otherwise, call Olga Mutabasi, Global Paper Products’ Quality Controller, on tel: 0772 974 732, and she will connect you with one of the company’s suppliers. At present, used white paper sells for 400 ugx/kg while cream-colored paper sells for 350 ugx/kg. The company also buys cardboard that is transformed into toilet rolls.

In order to become a “greener” organization, the International School of Uganda (ISU) is developing a school-wide recycling program, addressing paper first. Students will bundle 20 sheets of white computer paper that has been used on one side only to make notepads that will be donated to local partner schools. Used colored paper or paper that has been used on both sides will be donated to local artists for use in various handicrafts.

Newspaper. The Uganda Society for the Protection and Care of Animals (USPCA) in Mbyua always is in dire need of newspaper to protect its floor from what my family calls “excess dog” (urine and feces). For more information, contact Dora at the USPCA on tel: 0774 844 108. Another option is to sell clean newspaper (currently priced at 600ugx/kg) to collectors who use it to make things like egg trays. There are many newspaper buyers around the city, including Joshua on tel: 0757 207 874.

Magazines. There are a million and one groups around Kampala that use magazines and calendars to make paper bead jewelry. Donate these items directly or, if you prefer, Banana Boat’s Kisimente store will accept them on behalf of BeadForLife.

In my opinion, glass is the most problematic item when it comes to recycling in Kampala. Though they may exist, I did not identify a single used glass buyer while researching this article. Without a financial incentive, it is difficult to keep glass out of the trash. Once in the trash, it is dangerous and will never biodegrade. Having said that, there are many willing recipients of your used glass. The trick is in finding them.

Bajjo Glass Industries produces a variety of recycled glass objects including tableware, interior and exterior glass art and designer glass elements for your home and office. It relies on donated glass – primarily wine bottles and broken window panes. Other types of glass are acceptable but it must be no thicker than that found in wine bottles. If you have at least a small truck full, Bajjo will pick it up from you. Otherwise, you’ll need to bring it to the company’s factory in Seeta (20 kms from Kampala near Mukono) or its Kampala shop on Buganda Road (6 Days Arcade, Shop #10). While Banana Boat carries Bajjo Glass products, it does not accept donations on behalf of the company. For more information about Bajjo Glass, call 0774 794 611 or 0774 666 466 or go to www.bajjoglass.net.

PaperCraft also accepts used glass donations, which it uses to make recycled glass beads for jewelry (available at Banana Boat). It accepts any glass donations but most urgently needs blue and black glass (e.g., Bombay Sapphire Gin and Baileys Irish Cream bottles). If you have these, PaperCraft will pick them up from you personally or the Banana Boat Kisimente Store will accept them on PaperCraft’s behalf.

Local producers of wine, juice, jam, etc. are eager to accept your used glass. The National Organic Agricultural Movement of Uganda (NOGAMU) accepts clean wine and small glass juice bottles on behalf of its members (it can even take them as it home delivers your goods). You also can donate your jars with lids (jam, pesto, etc.) to the local producers of salsa, jam, etc. that you find at various markets around town.

For the past few years, a group at ISU (The Green Team) has been collecting used wine bottles and converting them into drinking glasses. The necks of the bottles are cut off and the raw edge is sanded, resulting in inexpensive yet attractive glassware. I recently saw a set of these at Mish Mash, too!

Other Recyclable Items
I take my used batteries and printer cartridges to my home country to be recycled!

So there you have it. The low-down (that just scratches the surface, I’m sure) about recycling in Kampala. There are more options than many of us realize and, truth be told, one of the things that I realized while doing the research for this series is that even a lot of the things that we put in our trash ends up getting recycled anyway (down to the trash bag itself)! Whether its people picking through the trash bags outside your gate or the scavengers at the Kitezi Landfill rummaging for items for sale, there is an ever-growing understanding in Kampala that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure (or source of income in this case).