.My trash your trash
The first plastic was invented in 1907, by Leo Hendrik Baekeland, a Belgian-born American living in New York State. By the 1960s, plastics had gained popularity akin to notoriety. In the year 1972, on average, a person used up to two kilograms of plastic, but today, a person uses up to 43kg of plastic annually. Since the 1950s, at least 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced worldwide, of which more than 6.9 billion tons have become waste. 6.3 billion tons of which has been irresponsibly disposed of.
Disposable/single-use plastics are items of great convenience to people around the world. Plastic is cheap, lightweight, waterproof, durable, readily available, and versatile. Plastic is used to package our food, hold the water we drink, in vending and protective packaging, and even used to make play kits for our kids. Plastic makes up a big part of the waste that’s now choking our water bodies and our planet generally.
The effects of plastic waste are visible in different countries around the globe. Plastics especially on rainy days block water channels escalating floods. Plastics are hazardous to aquatic life and difficult to safely dispose of
Often blame is leveled is on governments, mass producers, and users of waste for the plastic waste problem. Individuals not too often take it upon themselves to reduce or commit to safely disposing of plastics.
In September 2019, after looking at the amount of plastic from my home, I decided to examine the waste plastic problem in East Africa in a personal photo project. I have so far visited major towns and cities in Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya to understand the magnitude of this problem. I want to compare plastic waste in Uganda and other countries around the globe on the basis of personal responsibility, and even government policies to save the planet from plastic. I also hope I would be able to identify the nexus, values, habitual behavior, and traits that people across these territorial divides have in common regarding plastic and plastic waste.
According to the body tasked with protecting the environment, National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), Uganda alone, the ‘Pearl of Africa’, sitting astride the equator in Eastern Africa disposes off around 600 tons of Plastics daily with 51 percent of the plastic trash left uncollected ending up in manholes, undeveloped lands, and abandoned storage houses, natural water sources like swamps, lakes, rivers, roadsides, and water channels.
I have been to Nairobi, Kenya the only East African country which has come out with a clear law banning the use of plastic bags calculated to reduce on the number of plastics used within the country banning the sale of single-use plastic straws, cotton buds and food containers with the intention of reducing the amount of plastic garbage that pollutes the environment because Plastic takes decades to degrade and microscopic particles have been found inside the bodies of fish, birds and other animals.