International News Press SPECIAL REPORT

Lira City’s Waste: A Man Buys Land, Builds House And Marries Out Of Plastic Waste.

Isaac Ojok has been into he business for the last 10 years. He has managed to secure himself a land, builds a house and legally marring his wife. Ojok now earns at least UGX 50.000 weekly which helps him to take care of his family as father.

Guest Writter @Winnie Auma

For Lira City that generates almost two tons of waste plastic bottles in a day, its management has proven to become a huge opportunity for the population that live on hands-to-mouth.

The dwellers mostly the vulnerable women, the street Kids are 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 Lira Works Department. These plastics are later transported to the Coca-Cola’s plastic bottle recycling plant in Kampala.

Although the rate of collecting the plastics picked up after the establishment of the wastes 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 100 shillings to individuals who use them to buy paraffin or cooking oil.

But as time went on, factories like Mukwano started showing interest in buying off plastic bottles thus the increase in demand. Now, Ojok makes about 50,000 shillings on a weekly basis from selling a kilogram of bottles at Shs 500, a business he is proud to own.

Photo By Winnie AUma: Isaac Ojok ANd Pasca

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.

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

“I am disappointed by the fact that most people think whoever is collecting and selling plastic bottles lives on the street which is discouraging others yet l have made a life out of it,” Mr Ojok told this reporter on Friday.

Similarly, Yubentino Omara 78 and widower from Alango sub county in Otuke District 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 guard in homes and some factories said due to old age, he had to look for 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 gets the bottles from restaurants, bars and shops and majorly of his customers are those who buy fuel or paraffin in small quantities.

Photo By Winnie Auma: Photo of Omara

Ivan Okello, a 22 year old boy from Abako Sub county in Alebtong district said he dropped out of school in P.4 after the death of his parents and life became hard but since there was no viable job he could do, he moved to Lira at Teso bar in Adyel ward where he now resides.

“I get about Shs 5,000 daily through selling plastic bottles and old card boxes and it’s  from this earning that l am able to buy food and pay my house rent. This is how l am managing to survive in the city,” Okello said.

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

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

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

“Some of these street children want to go back to school to study but there are no people willing to pay their school fees,” Mr Odur said.

Last year, 48 of them were offered scholarship at Lango Quran Primary School and none have dropped out, which shows their commitment.

Photo By Winnie Auma: Photo of a group of people taking items for sale

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 facility

Awio started the business in 2017 with the hope of ridding Lira off 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 Shs 500 for a kg of any kind of plastic, Shs 300 and Shs 1,500 for a kg of card boxes and metals respectively.

His aim was 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 to low crop yield and famine.

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 and blocking the drainage channels are now being collected for sale saying this  has also helped 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 in cutting the cost of garbage collection through the self employed vulnerable poor urban dwellers,” Mr Otika said.

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