Personal protective equipment, also known as PPE, is in short supply around the world as medical providers deal with a surge in patients due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In Uganda, a pair of social entrepreneurs have taken the shortage as a challenge and since March have been creating PPE face shields for local hospitals and health facilities.
Reuters reports that Peter Okwoko and Paige Balcom, the co-founders of Takataka Plastics in Gulu, began to make plastic face shields out of discarded plastic bottles and an adjustable strap made from things like old bicycle inner tubes when they heard about the shortage.
In the process, the startup caught the interest of a local public hospital after they shared their creations on social media.
An initial order of 10 face shields quickly grew into more work for the team, with the staff of 14 making over 1,200 face shields between March and June. While some were sold at a low cost to private health facilities and NGOs, the majority were donated to public hospitals.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Takataka Plastics focused on making building materials like pavers and roofing tiles out of plastic waste. On average, Ugandans throw away 600 tons of plastic waste a day, with less than five percent of that being recycled.
Balcom says that at least 80% of Gulu’s plastic waste isn’t collected, and instead piles up on vacant land and in waterways and roadsides. The company hopes to expand its operation and eventually recycle 9 tons of plastic waste a month, though Balcom says “our focus at the moment is to fight COVID-19.”