They come in all sizes, shapes and with pictures of movie stars on their sides but Polythene bags or kaveera, as they are locally known are currently the number one environmental hazard in Kampala due to their careless disposal after use. Over one million bags are trashed annually, according to Environmental Consultancy Services International (ECSI) and thus their abundance, on top of being used as as handy holders of different items, in slum areas without proper sanitation facilities, they are used as ‘flying toilets’ – which are polythene bags containing human excreta.
Last year’s budget speech mentioned an increase of 120% tax on polythene bags with an intention of backing up on the government’s ban on all bags less than 30 microns. With increased prices and reduction in manufacture of the bags, the general consensus was that locally produced crafted bags would replace the polythene bags.
However, this is not the case, as all the polythene bags which were initially thinner are produced thicker such that buying and disposing of the bags remains the same. Many traders earning a living out of selling the bags cannot think of another business as one of the local traders explains, “being known for supplying of polythene bags to everyone in this market, giving up this business would take away my livelihood – i would find it difficult to feed and clothe my family!”
Due to the irresponsible disposal of the polythene bags, after heavy rains, most of the water channels around Kampala are blocked causing a lot of flooding and often times most roads are impassable with a four wheel vehicle. Careless dumping of polythene bags is ecologically murderous because their mechanical shredding greatly reduces soil fertility.
Government should therefore invest in educating and encouraging its citizens to responsibly dispose of polythene bags or inorganic litter and also explore ways on recycling the available plastics in the country.