A team of Ugandan women innovatively turns plastic waste into water proof bags by collecting waste plastic, which is then washed and dried before being processed into a sustainable leather-like material to be made into backpacks, shopping bags and toiletry bags.
On average they make about 20 bags a day, which are sold in six boutiques across Uganda and on Reform Africa’s website, with prices ranging from $9 to $25 (£7 to £20). The venture has indeed been a success.
The women, Faith Aweko, Shamim Naluyima and Rachel Mema, said they came up with the innovation to help keep their environment clean by ridding it of plastic waste which clogs street drains when it rains.
For Faith Aweko, growing up in a slum in Kampala, the capital city, heavy downpours meant water flooding into the family home at the side of the road.
“During rainy seasons most of the roads here in Kampala are full of plastic bottles and bags because people dispose of plastic in trenches and gutters. This makes it hard for people like me in the slums,” she said.
Aweko says some of the backpacks are bought by humanitarian organisations and NGOs in Uganda.
“In the rural areas, you find that people cannot afford a decent schoolbag, so the parents buy plastic bags.
“Sales initially fell in Uganda’s pandemic lockdown but bags are now being bought in the Netherlands, Germany, Britain and the US.” She said. “We were actually able to double our sales from the previous year.”
The women are now setting up a factory to recycle hard plastics into items such as pegs and flowerpots, and runs awareness programmes in a country where only 1% of waste material is recycled.