Experts Rally for Sustainable Use of Plastics to Counter Environmental Degradation

By Moses Oketayot

Environmental scientists within the East African Region have tipped policy makers on the sustainable use of plastics to reduce their effects on the environment.

This call was made recently during the inception meeting and stakeholder’s engagement at the launch of the Environmental Chemistry for Sustainable Project at Makerere University.

The Project is being spearheaded by the college of Natural Sciences; Makerere University, and partners like Kyambogo University, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University Kenya,BOKU, AND APPEAR (Austrian Partnership Program in Higher Education and Research for Development).

Dr. Christine Betty Nagawa, the project Coordinator

Dr. Solomon Omwoma Lugasi, a lecturer of Inorganic Chemistry, at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology in the Department of Physical Sciences; a partner in the project said that the major objective of the project is to provide evidence for the effects of plastics in the environment.

“This will go a long way to help policy makers make informed policy decisions based on evidence that convince the consumer that plastics have effects on our environment not only today but also tomorrow (the future), and not only here but also in Egypt,” he added.

Dr. Omwoma noted that there is a need by industry players to provide an alternative to what plastics are doing, and that it is not just a matter of setting a policy to ban plastic use, but to analyze the problems they are having on the environment and livelihoods. He further added that if the region continues to live in isolation about the environment, then sooner or later the ecosystem will catch up with us, and destroy what we have that is left of the environment today.

He also advised that the users of plastics need to be advised on the importance of other ecosystems, and to use plastics in a sustainable manner to ensure that we leave an earth where our children will live in the future.

He concluded that there is a need for policy makers and industry players in plastics production and recycling to reach a consensus on how to use plastics sustainably without having to do away with plastics completely since the industry employs thousands of people.

Stake holders in a group photo.

Dr. Christine Kyarimpa from Kyambogo University said that the project will focus on studying the effects of microplastics in Lake Victoria basin, the air, and how to handle oil spills in the Albertine graben of Kaiso and Tonya through the use of bioremediation technology.

She further said that the project is at the detection end and not targeting plastic producers but looking at the plastic wastes that end up in the lake. She reiterated that the project will give information to the stakeholders on how much plastic waste is in the environment, especially microplastics and nanoplastics.

The findings from the project will inform how plastic wastes can be reduced from ending up in the water bodies.

Dr Kyarimpa said that the waste management system in the country is not right because plastics are being disposed wrongly whereby organic and inorganic wastes are collected together during collection.

She also advised the government to focus on advocating for plastic reuse through recycling, because it is hard to totally get rid of plastics.

Current studies in Uganda only shows the level of microplastics in fish but there are no studies to show their level in water for consumption. The study will determine the seasonal flaxes in the level of microplastics in water bodies.

The project is being coordinated by Dr. Christine Betty Nagawa from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at Makerere University.

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