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Startup in Uganda Recycles Plastic Bottles into PPE Face Shields For Hospitals

Killing two birds with one stone, two Ugandan entrepreneurs working to up-cycle plastic waste into building materials have altered their production to tackle the shortages of personal protective medical equipment (PPE) in hospitals dealing with the country’s COVID-19 patients.

After the government ordered all non-essential businesses closed, Peter Okwoko and his colleague Paige Balcom, co-founders of Takataka Plastics, continued working in their plastics processing facility.

But, instead of things like roof tiles, they began recycling plastic waste into face shields for medical workers.

After posting an image of their prototype on social media, the pair got a surprising call from a regional hospital asking for 10 face shields because they didn’t have enough.

Using locally-sourced moulds for molten plastic, the two finished the order and delivered them, before getting a call later in the afternoon from the very same hospital asking for more because “the first ones worked out so well for them,” Okwoko, 29, said.

PPE and Plastic Recycling
PPE shortages have occurred world-wide, and Ugandan hospitals are are no exception, but Takataka Plastics has, so far, made 1,200 face shields. Even more inspiring, the company’s staff of 14, includes six employees who were homeless, jobless youth.

Around 500 of the shields have been sold to NGOs and privately-managed health facilities at a low cost and the other 700 were donated to public hospitals.

Takataka hopes to build upon the success of the face shields and expand its operations into a more appropriate plastic processing and recycling facility. Currently their location can reduce around 132 pounds (60 kgs) of plastic per-day, but they are aiming to establish a monthly capacity of 9 metric tons.

Uganda sees hundreds of tons of plastic thrown away annually, and their innovative solution to the PPE crisis has pushed these entrepreneurs to dream bigger.