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17
Wednesday
17 June 2020

Plastic is no banana leaf

Karon Relief – Together we can:
this is how the sign of the association managed by Roland in Bukasa welcomes people. In the heart of the Ugandan capital of Kampala, Roland organises graphic design and editing vocational schools, as well as haircutting and sewing classes, and promotes waste management projects. Roland and his team are finishing up a demonstrative project: they are building a salon which will be used to train barbers and hairdressers, whose walls are made not with traditional bricks but with plastic bottles filled with sand. The wall is polished to ensure the bottom or cap of the bottles can be seen among the mortar – the bottles are expertly placed based on their colours, creating a beautiful pattern. Some Kampala business have already asked if they can use a similar layout. Many of the plastic bottles are gathered in the ‘slam’, where women are often forced to wash themselves in front of everyone without a shed of privacy. Roland explains that, ‘we can create a parasol of sorts using the same technique: doing so helps us reutilise plastic and we give more dignity to women. When we go to the slam to buy plastic bottles, we try to create that spark of change in how people think, raising awareness on pollution and personal responsibility when it comes to keeping the environment clean.’ Plastic spread throughout Uganda, like in many other developing countries, without an instruction booklet highlighting the negative consequences that its use and spread have on the environment and without any guidance on how to process it. There is no clear awareness that plastic pollutes, and plastic bags are littered all over, just like what happened with banana leaves or other plants, habitually used as containers or to wrap food or objects. The women who follow the sewing courses are creating bags resulting from overlaying some polished plastic layers with two textile layers at the seams, thus creating waterproof bags that can be used for a variety of reasons. Another project is the creation of bricks made with plastic waste, ideal for flooring: these are turned into incredibly resistant bricks – however, experimentations are still ongoing to try and find a process which avoids the emission of toxic fumes (such as filters or bain marie processes). Roland highlights how, ‘some waste separation bins have been given to schools - they will be made with metal and cemented to the ground, the schools will get two each, one for organic waste and one for plastic. It is important the children grow up with this new shift of perspective.’ It is important to kickstart this educational protocol swiftly because change requires time to be metabolised and integrated in one’s everyday life. Alessandra, friend of the Costa Family Foundation