FAITH AWEKO: On Waste Management

Kindly introduce yourself to us

I am Aweko Faith, Founder of REFORM AFRICA, a social venture that transforms plastic waste polythene bags into durable, sustainable and water proof bags and accessories.

What was your motivation to start this venture?

It is the passion I had, to create change due to the problems I underwent due to poor waste management. Growing up, my entire life revolved around the rain. Living in a slum community in Kampala meant that when it rained all of my classes were cancelled and I would have to miss school, something that saddened me deeply. Even worse, during particularly unforgiving seasons of rain, entire homes in our neighbourhood would flood. I remember days when it would rain so heavily that my family and I would have to spend the entire night draining water out of our home.

These harsh conditions were one of the consequences of having poor garbage and plastic waste disposal systems in the area. Poor management of waste meant clogged drainage channels which, of course, exacerbated the recurring flooding. Reflecting on the hardships of my past, I decided to use my experience and knowledge to make a positive change in my community.

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So, what goes into changing the waste plastic material into the nice beautiful bags? What is the process?

We use a technique to fuse the plastic bag together to come up with a stronger sustainable material that we cut into pattens and use for making the bags.

Where do you get and store your raw material?

Plastic is everywhere in Uganda. Scattered in different places. We have women who collect waste and we buy from them at a fair price. As soon as the ladies bring the waste over, they sort and wash them as they don’t come clean. We do store the waste at our workshop after having it washed.

You only work with plastic bottles or kavera too?

We are currently working on plastic bags and kavera.

So Mdm. Faith, how can someone purchase the bags? And how much do they cost?

A bag costs as from 11$ and can be sent via bus.

What challenges, if any, have you faced starting and running Reform Africa?

Accessing machinery. We would like to recycle all kinds of plastic but don’t have the machines.

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What has been some major highlights/achievements you have had so far in your business?

We have been recognized in many platforms and media. So far, we have also been able to export our bags to USA and Israel. We began the project last year in September and started producing the bags just this year in March.

How do you sell your products? Who are always your target clients?

We sell mostly through social media and also through our sales partners. Target customers are tourists, foreigners and experts.

How do you make your profits?

We make profits though sales. We calculate our cost of production and a profit margin.

Do locals appreciate these products or they hardly see the sense of buying products from plastic waste?

There needs to be a lot of sensitization about waste. They like the bags only until you tell them it is made from plastic waste, then they wouldn’t want it anymore. They still see it as waste. But we have had some Ugandans buy the bags.

You have made such great progress in such a short space of time. What can you attribute to the huge media attention?

Through branding, attending public events and presentations where we get to talk to the general public. Always there are media people who ask for interviews there after.

You have been nominated for a major award in Uganda. How do we vote?

I am among the finalists for the social impact award and currently there is a community voting taking place. You can vote for me and two other projects here.

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As an entreprenuer, how can the youth exploit opportunities in waste management and build successful ventures like yours?

I believe in starting small. Starting with what is available.

So, what next for you as Reform Africa in the coming years?

We plan on having a training centre where we focus on educating the community and students on waste management and recycling. Mentoring them through their recycling projects they’ll come up with and train them on using the machines.

What is your parting shot today?

Start small.

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