COMMENTARY ON DEALING WITH THE PROBLEM OF PLASTIC WASTE IN GHANA
Statistics from the Accra Metropolitan Assembly show that more than 912,0 tons of waste are generated annually in Accra. Out of this, only 410, 625 tons representing 45 per cent are collected while the 55 per cent which is mainly plastic remain in the system. Plastic waste has accounted for a major portion of the total amount of waste generated in terms of net-weight. Only two per cent of single-use plastic bottles are recycled. The rest get scattered over the streets, choke gutters and drain pipes preventing the free flow of water after a rainfall. The Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Prof. Frimpong-Boateng, believes that the increase in the generation of plastic waste globally is as a result of economic growth and changing consumption and production patterns. Recycling polyethylene is the best way to effectively deal with the menace and clear the environment of filth, but it is not profit-oriented. To this end, companies need government support to adequately recycle all plastics in the system. Efforts so far to deal with the problem are not encouraging. For example, a waste management project dabbed “IRECYCLE,” launched by Voltic in 2018 was able to collect 200kgs of plastic waste by March 3, 2019. This means that only 0.2 tons of plastic waste was collected in a period of four months. This is just scratching the tip of the iceberg.
The effects of dysfunctional urban waste management systems on the lives of Ghanaians are evident in the number of health-related cases reported at health facilities and the poor environment they live in. The World Health Organization, WHO reveals that about 28 thousand premature deaths that occur in Ghana were as a result of inhalation of polluted air. The trauma of the June 3, 2015 flood situation is still fresh in the minds of many Ghanaians. It is further estimated that by 2050, the oceans will contain more plastics than fish by weight. This is alarming and all must be concerned. For decades, conferences, seminars, workshops and other stakeholder engagements have been held with the aims of dealing with the menace of plastic waste. These consultative engagements have been convened by the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation. The intention was to advance course in behaviour change of consumers and producers towards less plastic usage and production. In 2011, Government introduced a 10 percent Environmental Excise Tax targeted at levying plastic manufacturers in Ghana. The purpose was to establish a Plastic Levy Fund Authority to harness funds to manage the plastic waste menace. Money to be generated from that tax is meant exclusively for plastic recycling. What is the status of this levy and how are proceeds being utilized.
According to the Chairman of the Plastic Waste Management Programme, Ghana Mr. Botwe, the amount realized so far from the Environmental Excise Tax is almost one billion Ghana Cedis. This money can be used to assist private partners in the plastic waste recycle business as part of the One-District-One-Factory initiative to establish recycle plants in all regional capitals. Section 9 of the Control and Management Regulations Act 2016, LI 2250 should be enforced. The Act mandates persons who produce beverage products, to set up and manage or join a take-back system for primary and secondary packaging and recycling of waste. It also requires the EPA to decide on recycling rates in consultation with beverage manufacturers and other stakeholders. It is also essential that Ghana introduces legislations to ban the importation and use of non-biodegradable plastic products. A Comprehensive Sanitation Education should be introduced in the school curriculum to inculcate the habit of proper waste handling in kids and to shape behaviour of students at higher levels towards patriotism and love for the environment. Again, the sanitation and hygiene units of the various Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies should be reactivated and equipped to supervise proper disposal of refuse. Also, punitive sanction regimes should be enforced. Proper waste management should be everyone’s concern and we must contribute to making our environment clean.
BY: HAFIZDEEN AKRAM, A FREELANCE JOURNALIST.