Nakuya Paulina's Story
Updated: Aug 12
This is the story of an Eco Brixs beneficiary, Nakuya Paulina, who earns from plastic collection.
Plastic offsets with Eco Brixs mean Paulina is able to recycle plastic herself, as well as support her family and help clean up the heavily polluted Lake Victoria, which is suffocating in plastic waste from years of waste mismanagement.
Paulina started collecting plastic late in her life as a way to support her 6 grandchildren whom she has become the primary caregiver. She works in plastic collection as it offers flexibility around the management of her small farm, which produces food to feed her family and to sell at her stall in the local market.
In the years prior to her collecting plastic, she struggled to earn enough from selling farm produce at the market. This made it increasingly difficult to pay bills and cover the education costs of her 6 grandchildren (school fees are mandatory in Uganda). This meant only 3 of the children could go to school.
However, things are different since earning a second income from plastic collection. Paulina is able to fully support her family, has become a central figure within her community, and is helping to clean up Uganda's plastic problem!
Where does Paulina work?
Paulina manages the Bunaddu Buy Back Centre, which is located on the North West shore of Lake Victoria, one of the African Great Lakes.
Many people fish in the area for their livelihood. Sadly, much of the plastic Paulina receives is either collected from the lake or its shores, as much of the area is suffering from poorly managed plastic waste.
She runs the local Buy Back Centre where community members can bring their plastic to recycle it. Paulina weighs the plastic and pays people by the kilogram for the amount of plastic she receives from them.
When a significant amount of plastic is gathered at the centre, it is transported to Eco Brixs to be recycled.
Paulina has helped to collect all this plastic! Eco Brixs visits to transport it to HQ so it can be recycled
How did Paulina begin recycling plastic?
Paulina had heard about collecting plastic to earn an income (and had even started collecting plastic in her house to stop it from polluting the environment!) but she wasn't sure where to go from there. Then, she heard about Eco Brixs from Godfrey - another Resource Recovery Agent within the neighbouring fishing community. She then reached out directly to Eco Brixs to understand more and was connected to our Operations Manager Daniel Kayemba.
From there, Paulina was given a contract to collect plastic and PPE equipment to help her manage the plastic waste safely. The GPS location of her Buy Back Centre was added to The Uganda Recycling Association's digital map so people in the community could easily find her and know where to bring their plastic in exchange for cash. She also became a registered member of The Ugandan Recycling Association (TURA), which is the unionizing body established by Eco Brixs to help protect the rights of informal waste pickers. Since then, she has even voted to elect the organisation's official representatives - the first time she has ever voted!
To support Paulina, as she doesn't have her own transport, Eco Brixs collects plastic from her site on a regular basis (see image above). This helps her to manage her site smoothly and ensures she earns a regular income, as she is paid by Eco Brixs for the plastic she collects from the community. From there, Eco Brixs recycles it into Eco-Products, such as bricks, lumber, furniture, fence posts, flake, household items, and more!
"My 6 grandchildren are now going to school, thanks to the money I earn from collecting plastic from the community. Them being in school is a joy I carry in my heart. I am grateful to Eco Brixs for this opportunity."
- Paulina, reflecting on how plastic collection has helped her
The difference made to Paulina by recycling plastic
Paulina now earns a stable income through recycling. She earns UGX. 367,000 a month (43% above the national poverty line in Uganda) and recycles 520kg of plastic a month. This helps her to fund the education fees of her 6 grandchildren. This fills her with a lot of personal joy and pride, knowing all the children can go to school and learn.
Within her fishing community, she also acts as an advocate for plastic collection, especially encouraging women to participate so they can earn from recycling and become financially independent. As the community see her and her family benefit from plastic collection, she finds more and more people are becoming interested in her work!