Recycling Household Solid Waste – Part 1
By Rachel Radcliffe
Think you can’t recycle in Kampala? Think again!
Admittedly, recycling here is not as effortless as in other countries but, for those of you who are keen to reduce the volume of trash you put into the city’s landfill (or onto the street), you do have options.You can even earn a bit of money in the process, though at a household level, the amount is unlikely to be your primary motivation.
This article is the first in a two-part series about recycling plastic, metal, paper and glass. Some ground rules before we continue…This is not a “Reduce, Re-use, Recycle” cheerleading story (there is enough about that out there). This is not an instructional article about composting or how to bond with your children while making cute birthday party invitations out of old breakfast cereal boxes (if that’s your thing, you’re already doing it!) This is not an opinion piece or an exposé about the recycling options Kampala offers (I am poorly equipped to hand down such judgements; I’m just someone who’s stomach hurts a little every time I throw away something that I know can be recycled). And above all, this certainly is not an exhaustive summary of the recycling possibilities available in our fair city. Recycling in Kampala in many instances is better framed as “repurposing” and, yes, re-using, items that might otherwise end up in our trash – either directly within our households or by other individuals or community-based groups with which we come into contact. With that said, let’s get started!
You may be surprised to know that there are many companies in town that recycle plastics, some of whom belong to the Uganda Plastic Manufacturers and Recyclers Association. Most recycle only kaveeras (the polythene plastic bags you get at the supermarket) but one recycles other types of plastic. Where do they get it? Primarily from the growing number of plastic collectors who realize that an abundant, free resource is the key to their steady income stream.
Kampala’s plastic collectors are a varied lot. Some are street kids or scavengers at the landfill in Kitezi. Others are community-based collectors, established with the assistance of Living Earth Uganda (www.livingearthuganda.org), a local branch of an international natural resources environmental management NGO. As the number of plastic collectors has grown, so too has the number of businesses that serve as a link between the community-based collectors and the plastic recycling companies themselves. Regardless of the growth in plastic collection, two of the three plastic recycling companies that I interviewed are operating well below their maximum capacity. They are eager to obtain more plastic and believe that it is readily available in Kampala. All three buy plastic on the spot and, while some may offer a slightly higher price for a clean product, they are happy to accept it dirty.
Plastic Recycling Industries (PRI) is located in Nakawa near the Uganda Revenue Authority. It estimates that it buys about 50,000 kg of plastic every week and is working at 40% capacity. If you have at least 500 kg of plastic to sell, PRI will send a truck to collect it.
As of this writing, PRI will pay you 250-1,000 ugx/kg depending on the type of plastic. It is not necessary to pre-sort but, if you do, you’ll have cash in hand and be on your way faster. If you do pre-sort, please do so according to the following categories. The best way to identify the plastic type is to look for the recycling symbol or relevant acronym (eg PET) on the item’s bottom or base. In some cases, there may not be one. Use your judgement.
|PET (or polyethylene terephthalate). A thermoplastic polymer resin of the polyester family. Many have a convex base.||Water and soft drink bottles. Screw-top plastic jars/bottles from peanut butter, honey, powder detergent, etc.|
|Blow grade HDPE (or high-density polyethylene). A polyethylene thermoplastic made from petroleum.||Jerrycans (plastic items with a built-in handle and a smaller mouth). Colored plastic containers with a screw-top lid. Bleach and automobile oil containers.|
|Injection grade HDPE. These items may or may not have a recycling symbol and/or “HDPE” on them.||Plastic screw-top lids (like those from PET products). Plastic basins, buckets and thermos flasks. Plastic cups, plates and bowls (but not the disposable kind).|
|LDPE (low-density polyethylene). A thermoplastic made from petroleum.||Hospital drip bottles.|
|PP (or polypropylene, also called polypropene). A thermoplastic polymer.||Plastic tubs from ice cream and margarine|
|Plastic chairs, tables, etc.|
|Beer and soft drink crates|
What types of common plastic does PRI not accept as of this writing? Yoghurt pots, PVC items (pipes, shoe soles, etc.) Kaveera’s and cling film.
PRI cleans the plastic and then processes it into plastic flakes, roughly the size of a 50-shilling coin. PET flakes are exported by ship to China where they are made into other products such as clothing and buttons. PRI sells other types of plastic flakes locally to plastic manufacturers. For more information or to see if PRI can connect you with a plastic collector in your area, contact PRI on tel: 0414 288 225/6.
Omega Plastics Ltd is located just off Jinja Road on Kyambogo Road in Ntinda Industrial Area(next to where you get your driver’s license). In recent years, recycling has comprised an ever larger percentage of its business and it plans to shift entirely to Kaveera recycling in the future. Omega Plastics estimates that it accepts 3-5 tons of Kaveeras per day but that it could handle twice that amount.
It accepts Kaveeras (both the sturdier type you get at the till in larger supermarkets and the flimsier type in which your vegetables and fruits are packed), milk pouches and plastic sheeting (though not if it has threads running through it). Omega Plastics will pay 400 – 1000 ugx/kg, depending on the plastics’ quality and cleanliness. If you have at least one ton, they will send a truck to collect it. Maybe you’ve seen their trucks around town advertising “We buy kaveeras for recycling!”
Omega Plastics processes the plastic into pellets and makes three products with them. Using 100% recycled pellets,it produces rolls of black plastic used bythe construction industry for roofing and foundations. Using a combination of imported virgin pellets and its own recycled pellets, it makes black seedling bags and garbage bags.For more information or to see if Omega Plastics can connect you with a plastic collector in your area, contact the company on tel: 0414 288 280.
Pipeline Design & Foam Industries is located off Old Port Bell Road, tucked away in Luzira Industrial Park. Pipeline produces a range of plastic bag products, including ones made from imported virgin pellets (which are essential fornon-black kaveeras as well as food-grade plastic products), ones that mix virgin and recycled pellets and 100% recycled pellets. It produces two types of recycled pellets: one from Kaveeras bought from plastic collectors and another produced from the remnants of its own kaveera production.
Pipeline pays a flat rate of500 ugx/kg for kaveeras (after first reducing the total weight of the delivery by 35-50% to account for any water or debris artificially inflating the actual weight of the kaveeras). Its recycling activities currently operate close to the company’s maximum capacity of about 12.5 tons of kaveeras per week.
Noting that the average plastic collector supplying Pipeline makes a minimum of 500,000 – 1,000,000 ugx/mth, the company’s Finance Director, Mohamed Anis-Khalil Hazimeh says, “(Plastic) recycling can give or create job opportunities for people and give them a good income!” For more information or to see if Pipeline can connect you with a plastic collector in your area, contact the company on Tel: (041) 4222 897.
One last word on plastics… If you’ve bought plants at one of Kampala’s many road-side nurseries, you’ve undoubtedly seen recycled milk pouches. I stopped by my local nursery and was told that they’d pay me 14,000 ugx for 100 half-liter milk pouches and 20,000 ugx for 100 liter milk pouches. I can’t confirm that this is the practice with all nurseries.
So there you go. You can recycle many plastics in Kampala. You can do it at a household level or even organize your friends or community to join forces for a bigger impact.
Stay tuned for part two of this article, covering metal, glass and paper in the next edition of “The Eye”.