Youth Go Green finds new uses for discarded face masks

The youth under Youth Go Green have not run out of solutions to some of the problems afflicting urban areas in Uganda.

The discarded waste including face masks which have become a menace as they liter the environment and pollute water bodies has attracted concern and now action from the youth.

“We are rolling out an initiative to promote recycling of plastics and making of briquettes,” declared Edwin Muhumuza, the Chief Executive Officer, Youth Go Green. “This is going to benefit 250 youth directly and reach out 1,000 people under a pilot in Kampala and Gulu.”

He said this is going to be through training on green skilling. “This is an opportunity for young people to learn and benefit,” he said.

Muhumuza was speaking at the Uganda National Media Center in Kampala recently.

He said COVID-19 has given people big lessons. He said the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) such as hand washing have helped to improve hygiene and sanitation.

The downside to the pandemic is the youth were either infected or affected by COVID-19. The lockdowns instituted to control the spread of COVID-19 resulted in the loss of employment, which negatively impacted livelihoods. It also led to the production of hazardous waste such as face masks.

He said the face masks, which are part of the SOPs were resulting in the increased litter. The face masks are used once and discarded by the users. This is not all. The masks are usually wrapped in plastic materials, which also create additional waste to what has become a big problem of poor waste disposal, particularly Kampala. Waste disposal is also a growing problem in most of Uganda’s urban centers including the new cities.

Mariam Mulungi, an epidemiologist, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) said the youth initiative is going to help reduce the disease burden.

“Washing hands has reduced cholera, which is an endemic problem in Kampala,” she said, adding that for two years Kampala has not had an outbreak of cholera. “By collecting waste, the youth are creating benefits to environmental health.”

Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the Public Relations Manager, the Ministry of Health said much as COVID-19 led to loss of employment, it also helped youth to become more creative. He said some of the youth were making Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such washable masks, face shields and sanitizers.

As the youth were making money, they were also protecting the health of the population, according to Ainebyoona. But some of the PPE has turned into a problem and the youth are providing a helping hand in removing it from the environment.

“As Ministry of Health, we are happy to see that there is a project to ensure that infectious waste is properly disposed of,” he said.

Anna Pamberg, country coordinator NaturRes Programme under GIZ said that increased reliance on plastic materials. “We are committed to green and circular solutions,” he said.

A circular solution is where waste for one process becomes part of the raw materials for another production process.

Dr. Barirega Akankwasa, the executive director of the National Environment Management Authority represented Beatrice Anywar as the chief guest.

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Green Living Experience Festival

Hello Ugandans! Did you know that; In November 2012, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21st March the International Day of Forests? The Day provides an annual platform to raise awareness on the importance of forests and trees and the myriad ways in which they sustain our livelihoods. But how many Ugandans know and recognize this day? What if Uganda as a State declares this day a Public Holiday just like any other public holiday such as Labor Day for every Ugandan to plant at least one tree! Don’t you think we have not respected and honored this very important day that would embrace the human race on earth? Well, lots of questions keep lingering in my mind but I think we should be grateful and delighted because forests and trees are contributing so much to the development that we need in our country.

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