Advisory on President Museveni’s garbage skip directive and waste management

Ordinarily, I would welcome President Museveni’s order, as I read it in Monitor, on the return to more garbage skips in urban centres. The order in which he directs that urban centres should have garbage skips located every 200 metres and emptied every three days or more frequently depending on the volume of the garbage. And in which he also instructs urban centres to have a clear plan for recycling solid waste.

What is not to like about the president’s garbage management directive, considering that many Ugandan urban centres are choking with garbage? For this reason alone, I would endorse the president’s directive 100 percent, but I cannot.

Before garbage skips were reduced in urban centres, for those of us who had the misfortune to have a garbage skip located within the vicinity of our home and or business, we suffered. I am not really sure why, but people in Uganda simply throw their garbage around the garbage skip and not in it. Even when the garbage skip is empty, there will be garbage thrown around it.

Granted, it is also the norm that garbage skips often get over full with garbage spilling over. Partly, because the relevant authorities do not empty the skips frequently, reportedly on grounds of insufficient funding. And so, garbage skips stay not emptied for weeks on end with rotting garbage in them emitting a strong unpleasant stench.

When garbage skips were reduced and removed from some places in the urban centres, many of us whose homes and or businesses were near them, celebrated.

As a business owner of my Alinga Farms shop in Bugolobi Market, I loved the alternative garbage management system that the Kampala Capital City Authority instituted in place of garbage skips. We were required to keep our garbage within our premises and in an orderly manner deliver it to the garbage truck which came by the market regularly.

I don’t recall how frequently the garbage truck came by, but it was often enough that at no time did we feel burden and inconvenienced by garbage. Moreover, we, at Alinga Farms, generate significant organic biodegradable waste from the fruits that we use to make juice for sale.

My Alinga Farms shop in Bugolobi has since closed, but on my frequent visits to Bugolobi, even very recently, I have often bumped into the garbage truck collecting garbage from Bugolobi Market.

On the domestic front, for many years, from mid-1990s through to 2015, I was a resident tenant in the Bugolobi Flats that are owned by Uganda Coffee Development Authority. One of the services that we paid for was garbage collection by BIN IT SERVICES LTD.

According to their website, BIN IT SERVICES LTD has the capacity to manage a diverse range of waste, including household waste, medical waste, Hazardous waste, electronic waste and others. From my experience as a user of BIN IT SERVICES LTD in Bugolobi Flats, they do an excellent job of collecting and disposing off domestic waste.

From what is published on their website, they are already doing in multiple urban centres that which the president desires done by urban authorities.

“The plastics should be recycled into new use forms (bags, etc); the organic waste (peelings) should be turned into manure; and wastepaper should be recycled into new uses of paper (toilet paper, etc).”

President Yoweri Kaguta T. Museveni quoted by Monitor

Wouldn’t it be better for urban authorities to partner with waste management companies, such as BIN IT SERVICES LTD, that are already doing an excellent job? As in contract private waste management companies to do the job. This would free urban authorities to take on and do the more urgent and necessary job of:

  • Legislation for waste management
  • Education of the public on waste management
  • Supervising implementation of waste management

Ugandans throwing garbage around the garbage skip and not in it is a bad practice, but there is even a worse practice that is the accepted norm among Ugandans – we do not sort our garbage. When we take our garbage to the garbage skip it is all mixed up – biodegradable waste with non-biodegradable waste – including medical waste and hazardous waste all mixed together.

Uganda desperately needs public health awareness campaigns that will enable Ugandans to appreciate the different kinds of waste; how waste may have a direct impact on our health and wellbeing; and the need for us to separate waste at disposal. Such learning, may educate us to have empathy for the Ugandan garbage man and or woman; they who in most cases are forced to handle waste in garbage skips without the right protective gear.

Similarly, Uganda desperately needs environment protection awareness campaigns that will enable Ugandans to appreciate the dangers of, for example, polythene bags, hazardous waste and electronic waste to our health and environment. Public health and environment protection awareness campaigns should be the starting point and the epi-centre for urban authorities to design and implement waste management systems.

Directing a return to many garbage skips in urban centres is foolhardy without first investing in awareness campaigns. And it is retrogressive to return to a system tried and known to have failed.

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