Creation Care Blog #7: Takataka Plastics
I hope you’re all doing well! I miss seeing all of you, but I’m really thankful and happy to be in Uganda this semester. I wanted to thank you all again for your support of Takataka Plastics and share an update on everything happening here. As you know, we’re transforming plastic waste in Uganda into construction materials and creating jobs for at-risk youth in a healing workplace environment. In January, we launched our pilot in Gulu, Uganda to recycle 9 tonnes of plastic waste per month and create 30 local jobs. Our original goal was 5 tonnes per month, but there’s already more plastic in Gulu than we estimated last year, so we increased our target to 9 tonnes.
I arrived in Uganda in January, and so much is happening so fast! We’ve hired 4 full-time staff (pictured below). They’re all really talented and passionate—I love working with them! We set up our official office, conducted a market assessment, received more orders, and finalized an MOU with Coca-Cola Uganda to fund our collection and education campaign. We’re working closely with our partner organization, Hashtag Gulu, to design trainings for the kids who live and work on the streets who we’ll engage to work in our collection and sorting center because we want to empower them beyond just offering them a small income. We also hosted our first monthly clean-up that brought together members of the community to collect rubbish from the Main Market and street in front of our office. I was amazed by people’s interest and passion! Many Ugandans joined and were really excited to help clean up their environment.
I’m constantly surprised by the Ugandan’s support and interest in the mission and products of Takataka Plastics. Since picking waste is generally seen as a “dirty job” for the very poor, I thought it would be difficult to change people’s mindsets to care about recycling, but many discussions are already happening on the radio and in the government about the plastic waste problem and how something needs to be done about it. People are constantly asking us how they can recycle their plastics, and the contractors and builders we spoke with in our market assessment are very interested in our sample products. We can’t produce enough to fill the orders we’re getting, so we’re working hard to finish designing and building our bigger machines.
I’m also really excited to start experiments next week on our pre-processing machine with PET plastic. Our current wall tiles are made with HDPE and PP plastic waste, but the plastic waste causing the most problems is the discarded PET water and soda bottles. Uganda doesn’t have the technology to recycle PET, and it can no longer be exported to China and India. PET bottles and flakes are piling up and overflowing out of the gates of exporters in the capital. The Ugandan government says they’re “desperate for a solution to PET.” The chemical structure of PET makes it very difficult to process, but we have some ideas for pre and post-processing that will hopefully solve some of the challenges. We’re almost finished building our pre-processing machine prototype, so I’m excited to start testing our ideas to solve the PET challenge.
I would covet your prayers for guidance and wisdom as we make big decisions in the coming weeks about designing machines. Please also pray for favor with the District government—we met with the LC5 Local Government Chairperson Mapenduzi on Tuesday, and he appreciated Takataka Plastics very much and offered to give us land for our large collection center and production facility, but there’s still many processes to go through and approvals to acquire. We still need ~$20,000 to fund the pilot—we submitted another grant proposal, so please pray that the judges will see Takataka Plastics favorably. We’d also love to hire another engineer—it wasn’t in our original budget, but we have a lot of work to do. There’s a guy who’s helped us on small projects who’s really clever and looking for work. We would love to be able to hire him full-time; his salary would be $175/month.
I hope you enjoy the pictures below! You can see more and follow along our journey on our website, https://www.takatakaplastics.com, and Facebook page, Takataka Plastics. Thank you for your generosity in helping us transform waste and empower communities in Uganda!