waste

How Lira City waste is giving golden opportunity to vulnerable dwellers

(Last Updated On: 17 June 2023)

By Winnie Auma

Lira, March 14, 2022: For Lira City, which generates almost two tons of waste plastic bottles in a day, its management has proven to become a huge opportunity for the population that lives hand-to-mouth.

The dwellers, mostly the vulnerable women, the street Kids can be seen roaming throughout the streets and in the backyards with polythene bags from early morning to late evening collecting the plastic bottles for sale at the waste collection centre adjacent to the Department of Works, Lira district. 

According to reliable sources, these plastics are later transported to Coca-Cola’s plastic bottle recycling plant in the country’s capital- Kampala.

Although the rate of plastics collection picked up after the establishment of the waste for cash was introduced in Lira City, Isaac Ojok, 41, a resident of Starch Factory in the current Adyel ward in Lira City West says he has been in the business of collecting and selling plastic bottles for the last 10 years. 

He would collect and sell each plastic bottle at shs100 to individuals who use them to buy fuel, paraffin or cooking oil.

But as time went on, factories like Mukwano started showing interest in buying plastic bottles, thus the increase in demand. Now, Ojok makes about 50,000 shillings every week from selling a kilogram of bottles at shs500, a business he is proud to own.

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Ojok and his wife collect waste to survive. Photo by Auma Winnie.

Ojok did not only buy a small piece of land and built a semi-permanent house but also married the mother of his two children using the proceeds from the business. He is also able to support his children’s education using the same.

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Ojok’s wife, Pasca Akullu, 35, also recently joined the business. Akullu says the business has helped to keep her occupied and has also contributed to the development of the family unlike in the past when she entirely relied on her husband.

Just like any other business or investment divestiture, there are bound to be challenges. Now, Ojok is disappointed by the fact that most people think whoever is collecting and selling plastic bottles lives on the street which is discouraging because he makes a living out of it.

Similarly, Yubentino Omara, 78, is a widower from Alango sub-county in Otuke district. He said he resorted to the business after he felt sick years ago which rendered him unable to do casual jobs but he needed to survive.

Omara who used to work as a security guard in homes and some factories said due to old age, he had to look for an alternative source of income since he wasn’t strong enough like in his youthful days adding that the money he earns from selling plastic bottles has enabled him to buy food and support some relatives living with him.

Omara who sells plastic bottles near Rhino Oil Petrol Station in Lira City says he collects the bottles from restaurants, bars and shops and his major customers are those who buy fuel or paraffin in small quantities.

Another young man profiteering from this trade is  22 years old Ivan Okello. He hails from Abako sub-county in Alebtong district and was forced to drop out of school in P.4 after the death of his parents life became hard in his native village and since there was no viable job he could do, he moved to Lira specifically in Teso bar-Adyel ward where he now resides.

He says he makes about shs5,000 daily through selling plastic bottles and empty boxes from where he can buy food and pay his rent, something he says has helped him survive in the city.

Martin Odur, the Chairperson of Lango Ghetto Youth, an association for the children living and working on the street says most of them make a living through the sales of scraps like plastic bottles and metals adding that the money helps them to buy food.

He, however, says some of them end up collecting items still being used by the owners like charcoal stoves and metals and therefore end up being criminals.

For this, Odur wants well-wishers, and non-governmental organizations to help decongest them from the street by engaging them in small businesses like managing garbage and slashing streets’ reserves or even sending some to school.

“Some of these children want to study but there are no people to pay their school fees although Last year, 48 of us were offered scholarships at Lango Quran Primary School and none has dropped out,” Odur said.

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Some people wait for their waste to be weighed before getting the cash. Photo by Auma Winnie.

Meanwhile, Isaac Jackson Awio, the proprietor of Awio Scrap Dealer, the biggest scrap dealing company in Lira City has managed to employ 20 less privileged people from his love for plastics. The people are employed to collect, weigh and transport the plastics to the storage unit.

Awio started the business in 2017 with the hope of ridding Lira of the solid waste management challenges. At Awio Scrap Dealers, all kinds of scraps including plastic bottles, plastic tins or Jerry cans, card boxes and metals are bought at different prices ranging from shs500 for a kg of any kind of plastic, shs300 and shs.1,500 for a kg of card boxes and metals respectively.

He aimed to find a single place to store the plastics as a way of preserving the environment because plastic is a major cause of soil infertility which results in low crop yield and famine.

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Awio waste’ centre. All photos by Winnie Auma.

Leonard Otika, the Lira City Environmental Officer said the street kids collecting plastic bottles have hugely contributed to the cleanliness of the city because most of the bottles which used to end up in drainages are collected adding that it has also helped the city in environmental conservation.

Lira City authorities should be grateful that the plastic waste collection is not only contributing to promoting an environmentally healthy City but has also helped to cut down the cost of garbage collection through the self-employed vulnerable poor dwellers.

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