There Is an ‘Elephant in the Room’ – How this Ugandan Man is DE-campaigning Plastic Waste Using Art.

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It is time to talk about ‘The Elephant in the Room’…

Mr. Kandole Reagan (Left) – Director (ECOaction), in a picture with other tourism stakeholders

According to a 2023 report by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), Uganda has produced over  12,330 metric tons of PET plastics since 2018. In Kampala Metropolitan Area alone, 135,804 tons of plastic waste are generated per year. Of this, 42% is uncollected, 15% is collected through the value chain approach, and 43% is collected by the service providers. About 21,728T of plastics is burned, 47,457T is landfilled/dumped, 27,160T is retained on land and 13,580T finds its way into water systems.

Think about it this way, over 12,330 metric tons of PET plastics have been produced in Uganda since 2018. Breathe in, okay? Now visualize all the plastic bottles you see on those long tracks driving around Kampala, or your community. Pause. Now remember that man who threw a plastic bottle out of the taxi window, and it nearly hit you but luckily missed and flew over your boda boda guy’s helmet? Yes. That stung right? Think of the plastic soda bottle that costs you 1500 (ug) shillings only, think of the black kavera (polythene bag) in which your matooke seller packs for you, think of the plastic cup the Bongo/yoghurt seller packages for you, think of how nice that cup of yoghurt feels in your hands – you sip slowly, checking your nails, all this while driving to Kampala in that Matatu. Think about how embarrassed you feel when you have to leave that empty plastic cup in the taxi, and yet brush the guilt off because almost everybody is doing it; right? You have a way to justify your actions. Now think about the suspicious guy in your neighborhood, who walks up and down your community, wearing rags, and carrying a plastic sack on his back.

‘Madam, you have some plastic bottles?’ he asks you.

‘Oya, no. We don’t have. Please go away!’ You nearly yell. But hold yourself back, because you don’t want to be rude. But after he has walked out of your premises, you will check the bag of plastic bottles in your store, and wonder if you will give it to your friend who recycles waste to make bags and doormats, or if you should just have given the bag to the guy so that he can have a meal for the day. But forty-eight hours later, it will rain heavily and you, frustrated and tired because this sack is taking up your space, will carry the whole load and throw it in the gutter twelve meters away, in your backyard. See? Somewhere somehow, you can not turn a blind eye. You can not pretend you missed the problem because clearly, you took part. Aren’t we all guilty?

Now breathe out. Yeah, softly. Guilty as charged, but that’s not the end of it all. The good news is that you can do something about the problem. 

Let’s talk about ‘The Elephant in the Room’

And you don’t have to wait to be recruited as an employee of the United Nations, so you can take pictures and say; ‘Ye, here I am Taking out the trash! Team SDG 11!’ Unless of course, the opportunity comes your way. And if yes, then why not? We all, in our various capacities, have a role to play. The point is that we don’t wait for the United Nations to take Action, or for the Government to take action, yet as individuals, we too can take action. 

And that is what Mr. Kandole Reagan, the director of ECOaction, is doing, and his own is an example for us to follow. 

Mr.Kandole Reagan, under his organization ECOaction, in partnership and collaboration with students of ‘Art and Design’ at Kyambogo University, Toten Folk College (Norway), and Safe Boda, has curated a project he has dubbed There is ‘An Elephant in the Room’. 

The Project is a Giant Elephant Sculpture made of scrap Boda-Boda/ Motorcycle  Helmets, and scrap metal, and it is quite a spectacle. 

I encountered the sculpture at the 2024 POATE, Uganda Tourism Expo, hosted between 23rd to 26th May 2024, at Speke Resort and Conventional Centre, Munyoyo. See me pose by the Elephant in the image below!

Standing by the ‘Elephant in the Room’

“The project aims to raise awareness about the environmental problem of garbage, and to protect our nature and vulnerable animals inhabiting it.” – Mr. Kandole says 


Mr. Kandole, (Left)

In further interaction, this curator reveals that “The idea was to make a 1 tone elephant sculpture installation made from recycled boda-boda helmets and metal scrap that will be used as a moving installation around Kampala to engage the public and create discussion on how important recycling is and challenge them to come up with different recycling measures to save the environment.”



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