A student of Kampala International University starts a campaign on “End Plastic Pollution.”

Sadrack Nirere’s heart beats for a world without plastic. He organized a number of campaigns around the country to educate people about proper disposal of plastics. Sadrack’s work is one that has just started, read and learn about the works in the pipeline to appreciate this gentle giant.

Mr David Kangye narrates, as he walked through the gates of Kampala International University, I was wondering the type of person waiting for me on this campus. So I stood in front of the Ibrahim Basajjabalaba Library waiting, like a lost sheep, to be found. One thing about a university it is often hard to tell the students from non-students. For starters, anyone who asks you to meet at a university is either a lecturer or a student. Much as I was ready to be surprised, deep down I know only lecturers dedicate themselves to such causes. Why would a student be into environmental activism? Of course, I was basing on my student experience at university to pass judgement on someone I had not even met yet.

When Sadrach came to pick me, I was taken aback. I was wrong. He is neither a lecturer nor a student at the moment much as he is an alumnus. While still a student, Nirere started the End Plastic Pollution campaign. He rallied his fellow students together to address a challenge that is bedevilling the environment yet no one seems to be taking keen interest. His activism is majorly centred on plastics.

Recently, together with his team, they camped at River Rwizi where they went about cleaning and studying the effect of plastic on the river. River Rwizi is at the peripheral of Mbarara city. Sadrach was born in Kiboga, a farming community in central Uganda, the same place where he had his early childhood. He later moved to Kampala for education where he stays to date. He holds a diploma in sustainable business, and bachelor’s degree in international business from this very university.

Through his studies he was exposed to multinationals and how they are addressing the issue of environmental impact and sustainable trade. This led him to develop a keen interest in wanting to know about corporations and their business structures. And how this impacts the environment.

He came up with a campaign on plastics in 2019 using the background on businesses. End Plastic Pollution (EPP) was established in 2020. Sadrach found out that environmental degradation is being engineered by the corporations that produce the products we buy with our money. The plastic problem is beyond individual control.  He believes these corporations should be the leading champions in addressing the environmental challenges that they cause.

EPP came up to execute that role. According to Sadrach, over 200 million plastic bottles are produced in Uganda alone annually. He argues that theses plastic manufacturing companies invest a lot of money in making the product than they do with where the products end up.

Their view as EPP is that plastics should be designed with a plan to re-use and re-purpose in the economy. He believes companies could do better if they did the following:

  • Corporations should reveal how much plastic they are producing. That data is not available.
  • There should be reduction in the number of plastic products introduced on the market.
  • There is need to redesign the messaging on packaging so the plastics can be reused and repurposed.

There is a lack of political will to implement the policies designed to regulate plastic use.

The ministry of trade should not be left behind in conversations on plastic use, the ministry has the power to act. Agencies like NEMA focus on the science more than they do on practical elements.

His organisation is currently running branding audits of the plastics in the environment. This helps them to establish which brand is leading in the plastic disposal. Together with partners at Breakfree from Plastic they compute the data collected to establish what is on ground. EPP is a network of 159 volunteers in 59 districts and 5000 students in six universities in Uganda. Through this, they are able to share knowledge and learn from each other.

“Activism work is hard,” reveals Sadrach in a rather thoughtful tone. “We have been arrested before during demonstrations and our placards confiscated.” Challenges like these sometimes dampen the morale of the volunteers but Sadrach remains undeterred to pursue this cause. In addition to this, raising funds to support all the work he is doing has not been an easy task. “Our work is kinda unpopular,” he confesses.

However, as EPP, he believes this is a cause worth chasing. The experiences they have had in the last four years are a testament to the relevance of the work they are doing. And because of that, he is certain there is a sustainable solution to plastics.

As a young man, he is not short of ambition. He exudes verve and vigour as he talks about the EPP work. The joy with which he tells of their accomplishments, the confidence with which he talks about their hours of research and the humility with which he has had to learn come without an ounce of doubt that he is up to something good tells it all.

Currently, EPP is setting up an academy in Busunju; the Environment Leadership Academy. It will be the first of its kind to teach people interested in environment education.

To that, they have launched out to do more research in the field through its flowing with plastics reports.

He is quick to warn; “On the ground, there is a lot of turmoil. We are in an environment crisis. If the current pattern of environment misuse continues, a few years from now, we may be short of clean water.”

EPP, through its plastics free communities, are having programs that are to interest young people on taking interest in learning about environmental management. 

He believes this can be done. Every organization can embed sustainable environment in their plan. Individuals can take a personal responsibility against single plastic use. “We should not sit back as the citizens of this country to wait for the government to come through for us when we can do it ourselves. He believes if we individually ended the use of plastics, we would have a bigger weight of the degradation done away with.”  So he prays.

Author: David Kangye

Editors: Jackson Oyugi Otim and Julius Kyaligonza

Executive Producer:  Susan Nanduddu

June, 2022