Coca-Cola Foundation, through Care and Assistance for Forced Migrants (CAFOMI) and Coca-Cola Beverages Africa In Uganda, have launched Shs 110million programme to help plastic waste collectors in Uganda to resume their business in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Announcing the programme in Kampala, Rotarian George Francis Iwa, CAFOMI Executive Director, said the organisations would support 833 families across Uganda with interventions that will help them return to their employment as plastic waste collectors.
The 833 direct beneficiaries are 411 women and 422 men, from 22 districts across Uganda, of whom 63% earn less than Shs 1million annually. Iwa said 21.6% of the beneficiaries are below 22 years of age.
“As a national NGO, CAFOMI deeply appreciates Coca-Cola for this private sector initiative to support those who are collecting plastics and keeping our environment clean. The plastic waste collectors play a vital role in our communities today and we hope that others, especially in the private sector, will emulate Coca-Cola especially during this difficult time of COVID-19. These plastic waste collectors are our environmental heroes, so we commit to continue supporting them,” said Rtn. Iwa at the handover ceremony held at St. Paul Church of Uganda in Mbuya.
The Shs 110million assistance was contributed by The Coca-Cola Foundation to the plastic waste collectors to give them relief from months of not earning income from plastic waste recycling, and to equip them to return to work safely.
The beneficiaries will receive a package of essential items to enable them to work safely to avoid contracting COVID-19, including face masks and heavy-duty safety gloves, and COVID-19 booklets with guidelines to follow. They will also receive relief care items that include Dry food rations.
After the COVID-19 pandemic was announced, about 8,000 plastic waste collectors lost their jobs because of the temporary closure of recycling plants, restrictions to transportation, and the dropped value of plastic waste due to global trading conditions.
Of the 8,000 plastic waste collectors, 4,400 are estimated to be women. All plastic waste collectors are said to be low income earners whose main source of livelihood before COVID-19 improved when they focused on the sale of plastic waste.
“Having made a significant improvement in our collection efforts in 2019, the system was hugely affected by the negative impact of the lockdown. Our operations were stopped due to lack of market for our flakes, and consequently the entire chain was brought to a standstill as we couldn’t take in any more due to high stocks of materials previously collected,” said Samuel Kangave, Plant Manager of Plastic Recycling Industry (PRI).
“The collectors who were earning a living from this business were left with no option, making it difficult to survive during the hard times. With no collection of plastic, the impact to the environment has been quite devastating as the collectors abandoned the business leaving the plastic to pile up in thousands. The good news is, we have resumed our normal operations and are taking back as much plastics as possible this year,” he added.
As part of their commitment to conduct sustainable business, in 2018, the Coca-Cola company launched the ‘World without Waste’ initiative with a simple, focused purpose: make the world’s packaging waste problem a thing of the past. The campaign was built on three fundamental goals: Make 100% of our packaging recyclable globally by 2025—and use at least 50% recycled material in its packaging by 2030; collect and recycle a bottle or can for each one the company sells by 2030; and working together in partnerships to support a healthy, debris-free environment
“We know we cannot do it alone. That is why we work with different partners on the ground to see that we collect and recycle as much plastic as we produce. Plastic waste collectors are dear to Coca-Cola since we depend on each other in many ways. Collecting plastic waste is a source of livelihood to them and yet at the same time, they are ridding our environment of the would-be harmful plastics which helps us in our cause,” said Ms. Diana Apio Kasyate, Relations Manager, Coca-Cola East and Central Africa Franchise.
“As a business, we believe that we can only be successful to meet our sustainability goal of collecting all the plastic we put out by encouraging and supporting the women and men who labor day and night to ensure this is done consistently. We can’t be successful without them, and therefore we are in this together all the way,” she said.
This support will provide relief and reduce their current financial burden due to lost income and boost plastic waste collection target in tons to over 5,000 tons annually. In turn, the support will contribute to overall achievement of the key environment conservation in line with the UN sustainable Development Goals.
“As Coca-Cola, we have a dream to collect all the plastic and cans that we produce as a company by 2030. We are working with communities, partners and other companies to support plastic collection and taking them to our recycling plant for processing. We can have the best technology but without the plastic waste collectors, our efforts would be futile,” said Arthur Akankwasa, Senior Franchise Manager at Coca-Cola overseeing Uganda.
Study estimates suggest that an average of 1,500 tons of plastic waste is generated daily with only 500 tons of that being properly managed. This implies that most of the waste generated is not recycled and goes back to the environment, affecting the land and water, and our future.
Coca-Cola has signed various partnerships with government, private sector and community organizations to address this issue over the years. Last year, the company joined hands with Tooro Kingdom, in a campaign dubbed ‘Save River Mpanga’ to conserve and promote proper waste management in Western Uganda. River Mpanga is a source of livelihood for many and is connected to River Rwizi which supplies water to the Coca-Cola manufacturing plant based in Mbarara.
The company also recently signed a partnership with Stanbic Bank, Nice House of Plastics and Kampala Capital City Authority to encourage, promote and support proper waste management across the country.