HOW DID YOU START?
I embarked on a journey to use my skills to develop solutions in tackling environmental issues facing Uganda. I settled on plastic collection, which I recycled into fencing poles and building hardware – substituting timber. I launched EcoPlastile in 2018.
WHAT WAS THE MOTIVATION TO RESPOND TO COVID-19?
A few days after the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandem-ic, I was attacked by robbers, who beat me up and broke my nose. As this happened at a time when we needed to wear masks, I found it not only hard to breathe through the single-use masks, but I was also disturbed with the thought of how they contribute to destroying the envi-ronment. I therefore set out to use my skill (and inspired by my personal tragedy) to come up with a solution and which would not only be sustainable, but also cost-effec-tive. Single use masks in Uganda are expensive and also destroy our biodiversity. By retooling and recycling plastic waste from EcoPlastile Ltd, I began producing low-cost, reusable and biodegradable facemasks. We call them Eco-Mask.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE COVID-19 TEST KIT YOU ARE ALSO DEVELOPING?
In partnership with Fabio Huther, a Swiss young entrepreneur, we have developed a rapid combo testing kit that tests the virus in minutes. The kits have independently been tested on over 300 patients and they proved to be 98.3% efficiency rates. We will soon bring these testing kits in Uganda and they will be the cheapest on the market going for $15 yet very effective.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE IMPACT OF YOUR PRODUCT?
We have so far sold over 5,000 Eco-Masks, and we hope to scale production up to 10,000 masks a day. My ulti-mate goal is to manufacture as many as 10 million, and exclusively employ youth and women. For each 10 masks we make and sell, 5% of the proceeds are put towards masks for the most at risk in our community, such as mar-ket vendors, slum dwellers and street children. We have also recently introduced a model, where we accept plastic waste as a form of financial resource in exchange for the reusable masks. This will help reduce pollution, save our biodiversity and reduce the carbon footprint, while giving the most vulnerable protection against Coronavirus.
WHAT CHALLENGES YOU ARE FACING IN DEVELOPING YOUR PRODUCTS?
Funding is a challenge. And we also know that more funding will bneeded if our projects are to sustain post COVID-19.