In Uganda, especially in the not so well to do communities, it is usual to see someone wrapping raw food in a polythene bag and boiling it. This is also most common in restaurants and hotels. It is also usual to see food vendors packing hot or steamy food in a polythene bag or plastic containers.
But according to scientists and environmentalists, this is a wrong practice which poses potential health risks like contracting the incurable cancer. The World Health Organization and the United Nations, backed by various scientific studies, have discouraged the use of plastics in cooking and storage of hot food and drinks.
“When you expose plastics to heat, they dissolve into the food you are going to eat,” Geoffrey Kamese, the Executive Director of Bio Vision Africa, said in an interview with Earthfinds. His comment comes amidst continued use of single use plastics polythene bags (kavera) in the preparation of food and drinks at home and in restaurants.
Cancerous chemicals enter your food
He explained that plastics, including the kavera, have chemicals that are dangerous and must not enter into the food we eat and the environment we live in because these chemicals can be cancerous.
“It is something of great concern that should be addressed. Plastics are found everywhere – in the atmosphere, the food we eat and the water we drink. We have an important role to play as environmentalists,” Kamese said of the need to combat the misuse of the plastics like kavera domestically and commercially.
He added that when hot food is packed in a kavera, like the rolex (chapatti and eggs) vendors do, the heat dissolves the chemicals which enter into the food. He explained that when these chemicals enter into your body, they lodge in areas of the body that are fatty like the breasts and brain.
Kamese worryingly revealed that there are over 6000 chemicals contained in the raw materials used in making plastics, however, of the 3200 chemicals of potential concern, only 4 percent (about 128 chemicals) are regulated globally. Also worth noting is that there is no data sheets on the dangers of the 6000 known chemicals.
The Bio Vision boss says that there is need for more studies to be carried out to get the right data because if not exhaustively attended to, plastics will continue to cause cancer and brain retardation, and affecting reproductive abilities in organisms including humans, affecting hormones and endocrine disorder.
Global Approach To Curb Use Of Plastics
To combat the use of plastics and plastic pollution, the fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) in March 2022 adopted a resolution to pave way for the establishment of a legally binding Global Plastics Treaty by 2025.
Kamese revealed that the Ugandan government, and Bio Vision Africa as a Non-Government Organization, are participating is this process. He says that the treaty is seen to provide opportunities for member states and stakeholders to eliminate and restrict plastic polymers and chemicals of concern.
We think this treaty is going to be an important tool for the global fraternity in regulating plastics use, he said, adding that there is need to find alternative disposal of plastics like recycling.
He reveals that since UNEA-5, there have been processes of Intergovernmental Negotiating Committees (INCs). The first INCs meeting was held in in 2022 in Punta del Este, Uruguay. The second meeting took place in France’s capital Paris in June 2023, while the third meeting is currently happening in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. The fourth INC will be held in April, in Canada.
Kamese explained that for the Global Plastics Treaty to be effective in reversing the tide of plastics pollution, the INCs process must set precedence on mechanism and solutions geared on the stoppage of using hazardous chemicals in the plastics manufacture in order to save the human health and the environment.
It is believed that when the fifth INC sits in 2025 at a yet to be named venue, the member states will have agreed and able to sign the important agreement.