Ugandan factories turning waste into raw materials

What used to be considered as waste in Uganda is being turned into raw-materials, according to NEMA’s director of Environmental Monitoring, Waiswa Ayazika.

According to Waiswa, a growing number of industries have developed what he referred to as a symbiotic relationship, where the waste for one factory is used by another as a raw material.

“This waste we dispose of reduces potential employment and income opportunities,” he said, adding that throwing away waste is similar to throwing way money.

“I call up on companies and researchers present to explore every opportunity for re-using waste in a profitable and commercial way.”

Waiswa was speaking during a two-day East African waste management conference in Kampala. The conference, themed Zero waste hierarchy, was organised by NEMA and Sanitation and Environment Consult.

Waiswa represented Dr. Tom Okurut, NEMA’s executive director, at the 7th annual conference on waste. The participants were from Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Sweden and Italy.

The conference was held against the backdrop of an increasingly global paradigm shift that focuses on redesign of resource life cycles so that products can be re-used.

For instance, Skyfat, a leather processing company, produces offcuts of leather which were considered as waste, according to Waiswa. Today, the offcuts have become a raw material for making gelatin, which is a gel of very high value.

Another example is that 28 metric tonnes of raw fleshings are collected from Leather Industries of Uganda on a weekly basis for composting into organic manure by All Green Africa (U) Ltd.

In addition, industrial symbiosis was created between Sanatos Foods (U) Ltd and Tuwereza Bakery Ltd for the exchange of cheese offcuts. Previously, these cheese offcuts used to just be given off to workers at no cost and sometimes sold off at a giveaway price.

“As you are aware, as part of enforcement and compliance to environmental

requirements, there are a number of other approaches that have been used over time,” said Waiswa, adding that many industries have adopted cleaner production techniques that encourage recycling of waste.

This has contributed to sustainable use of resources by reducing or eliminating any negative impact, he said.

Furthermore, many countries in the region have developed regulatory frameworks that ensure that industries carry out Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) before implementation, regular environmental audits and compliance monitoring.

EIA is the study undertaken to ensure that a project does not hurt the environment and also to ensure that it explores alternative course of action.

The cost of large penalties imposed on firms that used inappropriate disposal practices in the past has led to technical innovations and practices that are more effective and sustainable.

Such innovations have presented the need for developing ecologically sustainable industries and shifting to more industrial symbiosis and efficient approaches, according to Waiswa. This has added value in products for as long and at the same time contributed to elimination of waste.

However, in whatever we are engaging in, we should also take into account existing regulations and build systems that guarantee sustainability as we seize this opportunity. There many opportunities in packaging, recycling and marketing.

In Uganda, a new National Environmental Act 2019 became effective on June 27 this year.

The Act has strong provisions on waste management. The waste management and effluent discharge regulations have all undergone review to ensure that we a strong regulatory framework on waste management.

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Written by Chiamaka Ekeh

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