Bishop in Uganda Bans Use of “dangerous plastic bags” to Wrap Church Offertories

Bishop Serverus Jjumba of Uganda's Masaka Diocese during an interview with ACI Africa Correspondent on January 21, 2020.

The directive by President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda that his country’s security agencies enforce the ban on the use of polythene bags into the second year, a Bishop in the East African country has banned the use of plastic bags, popularly known as “kaveera” in wrapping Church offertories, advocating for the use of decomposable materials that are friendly to the environment. 

Bishop Serverus Jjumba who was appointed the Local Ordinary of Uganda’s Masaka Diocese last April explained the directive in an interview with ACI Africa correspondent in Uganda, recalling the many gifts he received after his Episcopal ordination which he said were wrapped in materials that harm the environment.

“I noted during my inauguration that the people of Masaka Diocese gave me a lot of gifts but the problem is, the gifts were wrapped in dangerous plastic bags,” Bishop Jjumba said in the January 21 interview.

Urging all Christians in the diocese to comply with the new directive, Bishop Jjumba said it was his episcopal right “to evangelize to people who are mindful of their health and aware of the measures to be taken to preserve the environment.”

The Ugandan Bishop said that the sensitivity of the environment is everyone’s responsibility and that “man is the most important element of the environment whose involvement in the environmental conservation both in mind and body is important.”


He cited the Papal Encyclical ‘Laudato si’ which urges all people “to devise all means possible to care for our own (common) home, which is the environment.”

According to the 57-year-old Prelate, Africa is endowed with a variety of natural resources that provide biodegradable wrapping materials.

“We have banana leaves, banana fibers, even baskets that are made from natural palm leaves which can be recycled or reused and easily disposed without causing harm to the environment. We also have the traditional baskets made out of reeds commonly known as “Enjuulu” in the local Luganda and mats made out of palm leaves,” he observed.

The Bishop urged, “Let’s use these materials to wrap gifts even as big as bunches of Matooke and birds, fruits and many others which we are fond of giving as gifts.”

“This is just a small element we have brought out of that big picture about the protection of the environment,” he said.

More in Africa

During the 2019 Uganda martyrs’ pilgrimage, the Uganda Episcopal conference banned the use of polythene bags to protect the environment and humanity from harmful effects of the bags, an indication that the security agencies in Uganda are yet to enforce the ban.

Bishop Jjumba noted that though the response to the ban had been enormous, there still were places that had not heard of the ban.

He has also banned the use of plastic mats in decoration of the altar. He explained to ACI Africa correspondent, “I have been to parishes where they use plastic mats mainly at the altar. I asked them to stop it because there are better mats made from natural and easily decomposable products.”

The Bishop’s directive is seen as a follow up of President Museveni’s June 2018 order, which saw him demand that 45 manufacturers stop producing plastic bags. In neighboring Kenya, the ban took effect in 2017. Rwanda has had the ban of the use, sale and manufacture of plastic bags in force for years.

Preserving the environment also means being mindful of health, Bishop Jjumba observed during the interview ACI Africa correspondent. And as the Catholic Church observes the World Day of the Sick on February 11, the memorial day of Our Lady of Lourdes, Bishop Jjumba says this year his diocese is adding an element of conserving the environment to prevent diseases.


“We have put it under a theme of disease prevention because most diseases are brought by unclean environment when our people fail to manage garbage. We hope to have an activation at one of the township of one of our parishes,” the Uganda Bishop said and added, “we shall have four collecting bins, one for non-rotting, another for those that can be recycled, the third one will be for metallic materials and the other will be for carbon materials.”

As Uganda’s Masaka Diocese prepares to animate the annual pilgrimage of Uganda Martyrs at Namugongo in Kampala on June 3, Bishop Jjumba says he will campaign for environmental conservation throughout the pilgrimage.