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METGE,NARO and Bangor University create an alternative seedling wrap to using single plastic bags to support agroforestry in Uganda

For a period of six months, Mount Elgon Tree Growing Enterprise (METGE), National Research Agricultural Organization (NARO) and Bangor University under took a study to develop a biodegradable seedling wrap as alternative to using single plastic potting bags.

The project was funded by the Welsh Government. The aim of this research was to produce and conduct a preliminary evaluation of a functional bio-plastic produced using polymer and a mixture of Ugandan agricultural residues and various additives to improve functionality, from which a commercial packaging material for tree seedlings could be manufactured in Uganda.


samples of the biodegredable seedling wraps under experimentation at METGE nursery sites

Some of the private operators take a look at the newly developed biodegradable potting bags still undergoing research to become an alternative to single polythene potting bags.

Every year, METGE produces and distributes 3.2 million free tree seedlings potted in plastic bags made from non-biodegradable materials and fossil fuel derived plastics including polyethylene. 

However, there is no defined method of disposing off the used potting bags. Neither are bags recycled or reused especially by the end beneficiaries of the tree seedlings. 

About 30% of the waste is disposed off inappropriately, with most ultimately entering the soil ecosystem.

According to some of the stakeholders:


The biodegradable technology should have been introduced than yesterday. The cost of plastic is affordable but in the long run managing it has become costly. We cannot shy are away from pollution caused by to our soil and water ecosystems. It is time we invest in biodegradable in situations where polythene can be avoided,” Mr Joseph Mbihayeimaana Senior Intellectual Property Officer NARO-NaCCRI.


 Mr Joseph Mbihayeimaana Senior Intellectual Property Officer NARO-NaCCRI shares his view while brain storming about the decomposing seedling wraps

Thanks to METGE, NARO and Bangor University for the biodegradable alternative potting bags they are trying to manufacture to be part of the problem solving question that polythene has caused to the environment,” Asea Godfrey Director National Crop Resources Research Institute

“I think the research done by the METGE, NARO and Bangor University to create alternatives to polythene potting bags is a good initiative. We think this will be helpful to solving the littering of polythene bags in the gardens. In most cases when farmers actively do the planting e.g for coffee or any other trees often times they do not dispose the potting bags in a proper way. But the newly developed potting bag we have been told can decompose thus making the farmers work easy by directly planting the seedling in the potting bag itself. According to the research, the biodegradable potting bag is made from materials that are friendly to the soil. This means they are useful to contributing to soil fertility,” Ms Anna Nakayenze Environmental Officer Mbale District. 


 A team from National Agricultural Research Organization, DLG representatives from greater Mbale Districts , METGE and Implementing partners pose for a photo after the biodegradable workshop held in Mbale in March, 2023.

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National Agricultural Research Organization research team, METGE, Bangor University research team represented by Adam Charlton and Alex Crook the East Africa climate change and energy lead at the British High Commission Uganda and other invited guests pose for a photo after the workshop on disseminating information on the findings of the biodegradable potting bags experiment at the the National Crops Resources Research Institute in Namulonge in Wakiso.

The findings of the experiment were shared in the workshops held by National Agricultural Resource Organization at National Agriculture Crop Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) in Namulonge and in Mbale by METGE to different stakeholders.

The research is still ongoing to have a final a biodegradable potting bag for agroforestry sector. 

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