The Coca-Cola Foundation, through Care and Assistance for Forced Migrants (CAFOMI) and Coca-Cola Beverages Africa In Uganda, has launched a Shs 110million programme to help plastic waste collectors in Uganda.
Announcing the programme in Kampala, Rotarian George Francis Iwa, CAFOMI executive director, said the organisations would support 833 families across Uganda with interventions that will help them return to their employment as plastic waste collectors.
The 833 direct beneficiaries are 411 women and 422 men, from 22 districts across Uganda, of whom 63% earn less than Shs 1million annually.
Iwa said 21.6% of the beneficiaries are below 22 years of age.
“As a national NGO, CAFOMI deeply appreciates Coca-Cola for this private sector initiative to support those who are collecting plastics and keeping our environment clean. The plastic waste collectors play a vital role in our communities today and we hope that others, especially in the private sector, will emulate Coca-Cola especially during this difficult time of Covid-19. These plastic waste collectors are our environmental heroes, so we commit to continue supporting them,” said Iwa at the handover ceremony held at St. Paul Church of Uganda in Mbuya.
The Shs 110million assistance was contributed by The Coca-Cola Foundation to the plastic waste collectors to give them relief from months of not earning income from plastic waste recycling, and to equip them to return to work safely.
The beneficiaries will receive a package of essential items to enable them to work safely to avoid contracting Covid-19, including face masks and heavy-duty safety gloves, and Covid-19 booklets with guidelines to follow.
They will also receive relief care items that include Dry food rations. After the Covid-19 pandemic was announced, about 8,000 plastic waste collectors lost their jobs because of the temporary closure of recycling plants, restrictions to transportation, and the dropped value of plastic waste due to global trading conditions. Of the 8,000 plastic waste collectors, 4,400 are estimated to be women.
All plastic waste collectors are said to be low income earners whose main source of livelihood before COVID-19 improved when they focused on the sale of plastic waste.
“Having made a significant improvement in our collection efforts in 2019, the system was hugely affected by the negative impact of the lockdown. Our operations were stopped due to lack of market for our flakes, and consequently the entire chain was brought to a standstill as we couldn’t take in any more due to high stocks of materials previously collected,” said Samuel Kangave, Plant Manager of Plastic Recycling Industry (PRI).
Diana Apio Kasyate, the relations manager, Coca Cola East and Central Africa Franchise said: “We know we cannot do it alone. That is why we work with different partners on the ground to see that we collect and recycle as much plastic as we produce. Plastic waste collectors are dear to Coca-Cola since we depend on each other in many ways. Collecting plastic waste is a source of livelihood to them and yet at the same time, they are ridding our environment of the would-be harmful plastics which helps us in our cause.”
Coca-Cola has signed various partnerships with government, private sector and community organisations to address this issue over the years.
Last year, the company joined hands with Tooro Kingdom, in a campaign dubbed ‘Save River Mpanga’ to conserve and promote proper waste management in Western Uganda.
River Mpanga is a source of livelihood for many and is connected to River Rwizi which supplies water to the Coca-Cola manufacturing plant based in Mbarara.
The company also recently signed a partnership with Stanbic Bank, Nice House of Plastics and Kampala Capital City Authority to encourage, promote and support proper waste management across the country.