Uganda: Reaping Big From Recycling Straws

Bernadicta Nanyonga does not regret retiring from Bank of Uganda and failing to get her NSSF retirement benefits after 13 years of processing them.

She rather boasts of being able to cater for her family members as well as the 20 orphans. All this she has achieved from her business of recycling used drinking straws into valuable products.

Born in 1947 to Mr. and Mrs. Senyonga of Gomba in South Western Uganda, Bernadicta started recycling drinking straws in 2003 in Kinawataka a Kampala suburb located 5 miles east of the city centre.

"I have engaged in a number of activities to earn a living including animal rearing but it is only through recycling straws that I have been able to realize my dream," said Bernadicta.

Recently she was praised for procuring the straw pressing machine that flattens the straws to reduce the work load for Bernadicta.

The machine is the first of its kind in the country and can flatten an average of 60 straws per minute.

The machine was launched by the Executive director Uganda Investment Authority, Prof. Maggie Kigozi at Bernadicta's home in Kinawataka. "Earlier this year, flattening the straws was done manually with knives, a process that was very slow and painful leading to low production of 37 units of products last year," added Bernadicta.

Bernadicta employs 25 women the majority of who are widows and these help her in making the products because of the big work load that she cannot accomplish alone.

Recycling drinking straws involves a number of activities including collecting straws, colour separation, soaking, washing, drying, flattening, weaving, trimming, joining and finally cutting into various products by a heavy duty industrial sewing machine.

Bernadicta together with her employees make a variety of hand crafts including shoes, bags ( hand and shopping bags), belts, table mats, flower vessels, dresses and jewellary ( bungles, bracelets and ear rings ) among others. With Ushs25,000 to 5,0000, you can walk away with a durable bag.

Other products prices range between 15,000 and 30,000 all of which have a guarantee of two years.

"Some people claim that our products are very expensive but if the work load involved is coupled with the material we use, it can be proved that the prices are worth and only need to increase," added Bernadicta.

She expects to earn a lot from the business due to the big orders from individuals and groups nationally and internationally.

At the moment, she is working on an order from Ethical Fashions which she expects to be done by the end of September and embark on another from a South African based supermarket.

She also expects to increase on the number of employees especially women to 75 and orphans to 50.

"I expect to adjust the wages of my employees due to the increase in sales to uplift the standards of living in their households," said Bernadicta.

Prof. Maggie praised Bernadicta's efforts and urged all women to follow her steps in the business sector. "It only takes having a vision, well built business plan and skills that Bernadicta utilized to reach where she is," explained Prof. Maggie.

"Uganda investment authority has worked with the proprietor Bernedicta since the time she had a narrow idea and ensured that we worked on all policies that would block her from succeeding."

For individuals who want durable products especially ladies who are fed up of buying hand bags every now and then, they should reach out to Bernadicta and get themselves unique and durable products at reasonable prices.

Be the first to have a star bag and become unique.

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