Beverage industry in Uganda takes the lead in recycling initiative

Kampala, Uganda: Coca-Cola Beverages Uganda (CCBU), Mukwano Industries, Harris International, Uganda Breweries Limited and PepsiCo/Crown Beverages (CBL) have joined forces with the aim of establishing a Producer Responsibility Organisation (PRO) in Uganda that will create a non-profit, industry-driven and financed environmental solution for post-consumer plastic bottles.

Under the arrangement the member companies will pay a monthly levy to the PRO which will use the money to execute additional plastic waste collection and recycling initiatives in Uganda.

This creates a monetary value for post-consumer PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic, which incentivises collection and recycling and ensures post-consumer PET is diverted from the land fill and does not impact negatively on the environment. The move is expected to curb plastic waste from used plastic bottles made from PET.

At a meeting at the Uganda Manufacturers Association offices, the founding beverage bottlers each signed a Letter of Intent (LoI) to establish the PRO in Uganda in a joint effort to self-regulate post-consumer PET collection and recycling. This demonstrates the commitment of these companies that manufacture, import, or sell PET packaged products to take responsibility and create a circular economy for PET packaging.

“As significant players in the beverage industry, we all acknowledge that the convenience and benefits of plastic, a solution for post-consumer plastic packaging is critical in order to minimise its impact on the environment,” said Melkamu Abebe, general manager of CCBU, a subsidiary of Coca-Cola Beverages Africa.

“Everyone has to be involved to achieve this, from the raw material producers to the converters, brand owners, retailers, consumers and recyclers, all must play their part in the solution, with the PRO advancing the industry’s Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR),” said Suleiman Ngondi, the sustainability and communications manager at Uganda Breweries Limited.

“EPR encourages the incorporation of environmental costs associated with PET products into product market costs and establishes partnerships to take responsibility for used packaging,” said Tony Gadhoke, Mukwano Industries general manager.

“At PepsiCo/CBL, sustainability topics are integrated into, and not separate from, our business. We therefore believe that this combination of forces to curb plastics in our environment is a good cause,“ said Joram Bamwine, the Head of Quality and Food Safety, Crown Beverages Limited.

Continuous consumer and public education and awareness activities are required to promote environmental responsibility and encourage PET recycling.

The commitment to create the new PRO is a key achievement of the Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area PET Plastic Recycling Partnership, a multi-stakeholder partnership coordinated by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and facilitated by the Ministry of Water and Environment and the GIZ NatuReS programme, to improve the management of plastic bottle waste.

The partnership has focused on improving the recycling value chain, behaviour and attitudes towards recycling, as well as Uganda’s recycling policies through developing a mandated and regulated EPR levy. The EPR regulations were  signed into legislation under  the principal National Environment Act, 2019..

“As an industry we want to form a nationwide sustainable supply chain for plastic production and use, right from the factory to the consumer and back into different recycled materials. This takes collective effort, because it doesn’t matter to the environment where plastic waste comes from, the effects of poor waste management are the same. This is why we are working with other plastic producers, recyclers all over the country, regulators and the relevant associations,” said Patrick Mugenyi, deputy managing director, Harris International.

The PRO will be responsible for recruiting recyclers and subsidising recycling through contracts for all PET collected and recycled in the country, developing new high-value end-uses for recycled plastics, training and empowering collectors and promoting PET collection and recycling through consumer awareness.

Supporting the establishment of a circular economy for plastic waste has many environmental and economic benefits since recycling also has the potential to create many jobs. 

“As partners in this initiative we are a proud industry leader in developing increasingly sustainable ways to manufacture, distribute and sell our products. We use our industry leadership to be part of the solution to achieve positive change in the world and to build a more sustainable future for our planet. Regardless of where it comes from, we want every package to have more than one life,” added CCBU’s Melkamu Abebe.

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