Environmental Talk At UGPulse: What is in Your Rubbish?
Garbage on Kampala streets.

Environmental Talk At UGPulse: What is in Your Rubbish?


Garbage disposal in Uganda affecting people's health.

By Ivan Kibuka-Kiguli
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First published: October 30, 2006


We all produce rubbish. Show me a man who does not and I will show you a dead man. Today, let us talk rubbish. Yes, rubbish! Anyway, what is rubbish and how do you handle yours?


Rubbish comes in the following main grades: domestic, municipal, medical and industrial. For each of us, our daily interaction is mostly with domestic and municipal waste (rubbish), so we shall ignore the other grades for this discussion. Domestic rubbish is what you manufacture at your house. It can take plenty of forms: used cardboard, leftover food, peelings, kitchen sink debris, metal cans/fittings, paper, rags, sweepings (dust mostly), glass in all forms, wooden pieces, etc. In short, all kind of spent and unwanted solid material in the house. Municipal waste is what you guys leave in public bins, market places, etc. It may take as many forms as domestic waste and even more. The most noticeable form in some places are cigarette butts.

But have you ever asked yourself what happens to all this rubbish? The fate that most domestic rubbish in built up areas meets is usually left to the municipal councils of these places. You make it, you dump it at the skip or the council chaps/private collectors pick it from a container on your driveway. Some people burn theirs (stones, metals and all) yet others bury it in pits, sometimes to make compost. Very few people make an effort to recycle theirs but the majority in Uganda just chuck it out and about. Yes, just chuck it out as long as it is out of their backyards! 

Are you aware of how you are rewarded for handling rubbish carelessly?

  • It will send you a 'thank you' note through sickness. The messenger might be that mosquito living in the old paint can you threw into the bush last month. The slimy slugs bringing the bilharzia show to a pond near you grew up feeding on that waste food you so careless threw out.
  • The rats that once lived next door cannot believe you liked them that much. What with the rich kitchen sink debris pickings to be found under your hedge. The cockroaches cannot believe your generosity either.
  • Poorly managed rubbish is unsightly besides the fact that it produces obnoxious odours. Toxic substances resulting from the uncontrolled action of some bacteria on the rubbish material seep through the soil and will make a return via the water you drink. You know what that means.
  • Poor attention being paid to material recycling programmes by us the wanainchi means that the natural resources of mother earth are going to be depleted sooner than later. Remediation (environmetal management) costs for attempting to correct the mistakes we make now will be very high for us and the future generations. Infact, we are failing to exploit the opportunities we have to tap energy and manufacture manure from our waste. The technology does exist. Yet we keep wasting the raw material.

But how usefully can we dispose off rubbish? First rule, reuse everything you can. Why go out to buy a bucket for soaking the baby's clothes when that 8 litre bucket in which the powdered detergent came will soon be empty? Yes, look for ways of recycling everything. Develop the habit. The ability to recognise recycling opportunities improves with practice.

The Value of Rubbish



The Value of Rubbish shows how African people have used their ingenuity to create household implements, toys and agricultural tools out of "rubbish".
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Of the remaining rubbish, compost the biodegradable stuff for use in your garden. Fertilisers in this form do not come cheaper. However, take care to ensure that the composting process does not feed rats out there. What you can't recycle or treat at your house, ensure the garbage man takes away. Do not throw it about or bury rubbish indiscriminately. If it doesn't catch up with you on earth, it will when you are both six feet under!

By Ivan Kibuka-Kiguli
more from author >>
First published: October 30, 2006
The author is a pollution control equipment engineer/consultant and a proud active member of UGPulse.