By Waswa Balunywa
One of the things on my thoughts is the challenge of plastic bags (buveera) mainly the polythene bags used for packing. Economic development has brought in its wake numerous challenges including global warming with its numerous consequences.
A major challenge the world has faced as a result of the industrial development has been the disposal of industrial waste. This is coupled with the actual usage of resources. Today, the world is talking about sustainable development, can we use our resources in such a way that they can be sustained and used in generations?
Unfortunately, this does not appear to be so. Developing countries are busy polluting the air. China and the USA are possibly the biggest culprits, but the world is talking about it and putting measures to address it.
Today there are challenges of air pollution, deforestation, desertification all emerging from industrial development. For the developing countries, while we sign up to international agreements on some of these issues very little translates onto the ground. The issue of polythene bags is one such.
The challenge is growing uncontrollably mainly resulting from packaging of goods that we buy from commercial enterprises.
Growing up, packaging of goods was mainly in paper bags, this was until business invented the plastic bag but the cost of the plastic bag to the earth is phenomenal.
It is said that over 100 million tonnes of plastics have entered the oceans! There are also reports that in every square mile of the ocean worldwide, there are approximately one million pieces of plastic debris!
Over two million birds and animals die every year due to eating of polythene bags or as a result of chocking. Plastic is choking rivers, tunnels and other water ways.
In our poor countries, the tragedy has already happened but it is yet to show its ugly head. The consequences of the plastic bag and there disposal has already damaged most of our society.
Some countries that have been wise have banned the usage of high density polythene bags. These include China, India, Bangladesh and Rwanda among others.
Uganda’s attempt to ban these plastics was defeated by lobbyists, corruption and weaknesses in implementing the law. In some other countries especially developed countries, they have imposed a surcharge on usage of plastics but because they are more aware of the problem these cause, the disposal methods are strictly enforced.
Uganda has a major challenge, every town, slum, trading centre is filled with debris of polythene bags. Of course we don’t have records of who has died as a result of swallowing or misusing of these bags.
This includes animals and bats but definitely they exist. It is possible some people have died as a result of these two. As a country, we are very good at making policy but very poor at implementing it.
There are very many things that we know we should not do but we ignore and do them. People will not get out of forests yet they know it is important to have forest cover to avoid problems of climate change.
The plastic bag challenge is one of those things we must address. As a poor country, we cannot afford the costs associated with the hazards that poor disposal of plastic bags cause. We need to have sustainable economic development.
We should take care of our forests, wetlands, lakes and rivers. We should sensitize our children in schools about the hazards of deforestation, desertification and global warming among other challenges. But most important, we should sensitize children in schools about disposal of plastic bags.
It is a menace and a nightmare. We should take this matter seriously.
The writer is the Principal, Makerere University Business School