Plastic pollution is a global issue, but in Gulu, Uganda, a few bright minds are using litter to save lives.
Peter Okwoko and Paige Balcom cofounded Takataka Plastics, a start-up that turns plastic waste into affordable construction materials. Even after nonessential businesses closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the pair continued upcycling their city’s garbage. They even found another innovative use for it!
With the shortage of personal protective equipment putting health care workers around the world at risk, Peter and Paige knew they wanted to help.
“The situation is critical. Many people are working without PPE,” said Dr. Mukuzi Muhereza of the Uganda Medical Association. “That is hampering the fight against COVID-19 because there’s fear among health workers that anytime I touch a patient, I might be a COVID patient myself.”
So Peter and Paige put their heads together and came up with a brilliant solution. Instead of producing building materials, they could use plastic to create face shields!
Shortly after developing and sharing a prototype online, a local hospital called them and put in a request for 10. The shields worked so well that the hospital contacted them later that day to ask for more!
Not only are the shields helping hospitals in need, but they’re also creating jobs! Takataka Plastics has 14 employees, six of whom are homeless youths. Their job is to shred, melt, and mold plastic bottles into face shields and frames.
The company has since manufactured 1,200 shields, donating 700 to public hospitals and selling 500 to NGOs and private health facilities. Their single-use shields cost about $1, while their reusable ones are $2.70.
Together, Paige and Peter hope to ramp up their efforts by recycling 9 tonnes of plastic a month. They’re currently running about 132 pounds through a processing plant each day.
In the meantime, they’re happy to keep providing these lifesaving shields to the heroes of the pandemic!
What a smart way to reduce plastic pollution and the PPE shortage! Great work, Takataka Plastics!
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