Uganda Startup Recycles Plastic Into Coronavirus Face Shields


By Anthony McLennan / Truth Theory

Takataka Plastics, a Uganda start-up, has switched its focus from turning plastic waste into construction material and are instead producing plastic shields to assist in protecting people against the coronavirus.

And not only are they potentially helping to save lives, but they are also creating employment.

Takataka, which means ‘waste’ in Swahili, are based in a small town in Uganda called Gulu.

The company began last year when a local man who was determined to make a difference in the fight against plastic pollution, Peter Okwoko, teamed up with Paige Balcom, a UC Berkeley graduate.

The company’s initial focus had been to transform plastic into roofing tiles and pavers.

But since the advent of COVID-19, it quickly became clear to Takataka that they could help in other ways.

Uganda hospitals short on PPE

According to a statement on the Takataka website, there is a dire need for personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical workers in Uganda.

“Hospitals and health clinics in Uganda are woefully under-equipped to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is very little protective equipment for the medical staff. Doctors and nurses are asking for face shields, but they are not available in most hospitals. Only well-financed, private hospitals can afford them; the government-run hospitals and clinics do not have any protective face shields.”

After recognizing the need which required filling, Takataka’s workers set about researching and designing their face shields, which have been well received.

Aside from helping to protect medical workers against contracting coronavirus, the Takataka team is of course tackling the plastic pollution which remains a big problem in Uganda.

“In Gulu, where we work, 80 percent of the plastic waste is not collected,” Balcom explained.

“Instead, most of the plastic is burned, which releases lethal carcinogens and toxins and CO2, or it’s littered anyhow. And ends up blocking drains, causing flooding and breeding grounds for malaria-bearing mosquitoes. Or it gets into soil and disrupts crops or is ingested by cows.”

Image credit: BigIdeasContest

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