As the world is set to commemorate the Earth Hour later this month, environmental activists here, on Thursday launched a campaign calling for a total ban of single-use plastics, which they say are choking the environment.
“Plastic waste is choking our country – polluting the air, water, and soil that both people and wildlife need to survive,” the activists, including government departments, civil society, social formations and the Wild Wide Fund (WWF) said in a press statement.
Started in Sydney in 2007, Earth Hour has grown to become one of the world’s largest grassroots movements for the environment. The most typical celebration of the event is to switch off the lights for an hour so as to draw public attention to the environmental crisis.
The activists warned that if nothing is done, by 2050, there may be more plastic in water bodies than fish.
“Water bodies world over contain 300 million tons of plastic and we add another 8 million every year – that’s a truckload of plastic a minute!” the statement said, ahead of the March 27 Earth Hour commemoration.
Sam Cheptoris, minister of water and environment said all actors must join efforts in protecting and restoring nature.
“I want to add my voice to rally all Ugandans to at all times keep it green and clean by planting more trees, adopting the use of renewable energy technologies and most importantly checking plastic pollution,” the minister told reporters on Thursday.
David Duri, WWF Country Director, said even as the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, the ever-deepening crisis of nature and biodiversity loss must be put in the spotlight too.
“The ongoing catastrophic climate crisis still hangs over us and demands our focus,” Duri told reporters.
He said this year, under the theme, ‘keep it green and clean’, Ugandans are being mobilized to among others take a firm stand on plastic pollution, which has become one of the most alarming environmental issues.
“The chemical structure of plastics makes them resistant to many natural processes of degradation. As a result of which they are not easily degraded,” Duri said, noting that plastic soaks up other toxic chemicals and pollutants present in the environment and water bodies.
“Eventually, when it breaks down, these chemical and harmful substances get released into the environment along with additives such as color which turns out to be highly toxic. This eventually gets into the water we drink, the food we grow, and the fish we eat.”
WWF Uganda urged manufacturers of plastics to not only invest in the production of reusable plastic bags and bottles but also join the campaign against plastic pollution by investing in the recycling of the plastic they produce.
The government needs to come up with a clear policy stand and a ban on single-use plastic, and also direct plastic manufactures to be part of efforts in addressing plastic pollution which they partly contribute to, according to WWF.
Uganda has previously banned the use of single-use plastics but enforcing the measure has not been effected.
The campaigners said there is a need for a mindset shift away from the single-use culture of plastics if efforts to reduce pollution are to yield results.
“WWF and partners are calling for a complete ban on these single-use products since only 9 percent of all plastic ever created has been recycled,” the activists said in the statement.
“We can only defeat the plastic monster together. It cannot be allowed to threaten all of our lives, and we cannot allow the plastic industry to continue to mislead the public into believing that consumers are at fault,” the statement added.