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Think twice before you guzzle that juice

By Vision Reporter

Added 7th February 2010 03:00 AM

RESIDENTS of Kampala need to be reminded of the saying: ‘Not all that glitters is gold’. Food vendors pack water and juice in fancy looking bottles picked from filthy places, posing serious health risks.

RESIDENTS of Kampala need to be reminded of the saying: ‘Not all that glitters is gold’. Food vendors pack water and juice in fancy looking bottles picked from filthy places, posing serious health risks.

By Gerald Tenywa

RESIDENTS of Kampala need to be reminded of the saying: ‘Not all that glitters is gold’. Food vendors pack water and juice in fancy looking bottles picked from filthy places, posing serious health risks.

For 50-year-old Jamila Erika, who collects plastic bags and used mineral water bottles discarded in Nakivubo Channel, these items have a “second life.”

The first users, trendy folks in the city, discard these bottles carelessly, the reason some of them are driven into the Nakivubo Channel, which pours the filth into Lake Victoria. As the water flows, it leaves behind heaps of mineral water bottles.

“I have been picking bottles for nine years in order to earn a living,” says Erika. She was speaking to The New Vision during a survey carried out in Namuwongo and Kiteezi dumping grounds last week.

“I do not know where they end up, but there are people who give me money for trash,” Erika says. Dressed in tattered clothes, she collects as many bottles from the swamp as her tiny fingers can handle.

Asked why she does not use gloves while picking the waste, Erika says: “How can I be looking for money and I waste money on gloves?” Out of three bags of mineral water bottles she piks, Erika earns sh3,000.

Sources say the bottles are cleaned by middle men who sell them to food vendors. Besides the eateries, used mineral water bottles are becoming popular with herbalists who bottle herbal medicine for sale.

Health implications
Paul Luyima, a public health consultant, says plastic mineral water bottles are disposable and should be used only once. “Cleaning these bottles to pack juice exposes consumers to health risks. Nobody knows where the fruit vendors prepare their juice. All this is illegal,” Luyima says.

He also points out that health inspectors need to intervene aggressively. However, they are few and ill-facilitated. He says creating awareness and educating the consumers will help root out such illegal businesses and ultimately protect society.

In some cases, slum dwellers without toilets urinate in the bottles and throw them into the drainage channels. They are carried by running water and eventually find their way in Nakivubo Channel. Luyima says instead of re-using these bottles, people should take them to plastic recycling companies.

Plastic waste for scavengers
Alex Byarugaba, the project manager of Plastic Recycling Industries Uganda, and a public health expert, is opposed to the use of second-hand plastic bottles to pack juice.

Some of the plastic bottles end up at a company called Plastic Recycling Limited where they are crushed to make raw materials for products such as winter clothing and carpets. These are exported to China, which has the technology for processing them.

Packaged water
Dr. Callist Tindimugaya, a commissioner at the directorate of water development in the water ministry, says mineral water is ordinary water from a borehole, which is pumped in a filtration tank and treated with ultra violet rays.

“It is the packaging that makes it attractive and without it there would not be mineral water. It is something that plays on the consumer’s psychology,” Tindimugaya says.

In Uganda, the cost of producing mineral water is not prohibitive and that is why many investors are rushing into the business.

Tindimugaya says the initial investment cost of installing a borehole is high and yet it can work for half a century compared to one plastic bottle that a consumer discards in a short while.

However, if the cost of plastic bottles is recovered through recycling, there is no problem.

However, Tindimugaya also warns that the public health concerns are serious and that people who want to appear fancy by swinging around with juice in a re-used bottle, need to think twice.

They may be victims of diseases like cholera, dysentery, diarrhoea and typhoid.

Think twice before you guzzle that juice

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