Environmental detriment drives innovation in Ghana (part II) – Weave News
However, the government has made progress in encouraging a clean environment. Each city has a metropolitan municipal district assembly, which employs a task force to oversee various waste sectors, including plastic waste. As a result, most communities are under the misconception that you can throw your garbage where you are and let the MMDA take care of the consequences.
While in Ghana, I interviewed Abiba Owen, an employee of Techiman’s Environmental Health Bureau. She works primarily as a member of the Environmental Working Group, whose job it is to encourage community clean-up and hold others accountable for their respective damage. She informed me, “There are bylaws within communities that allow officers to take action against individuals regarding waste disposal.”
However, there is a lack of enforcement among sanitation workers, which indicates that the government wants a hands-off approach. The government has made citizens responsible for encouraging the clean-up of garbage. According to Owen, sanitation workers find it difficult to berate community members due to the close relationships and social hierarchies in all the towns.
Additionally, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo created a program that encourages local governments to send health workers to clean up their towns on the last Saturday of each month. This program perpetuated the idea that it is the MMDA’s sole responsibility to clean up, not the duty of the general public. However, during his speech to launch the sanitation campaign in 2017, President Addo is dismissed this program by recognizing that “We have an obligation to keep our environment clean, we must do it daily, not on a monthly basis”.
In addition, he called on the whole community to instill a habit of greater discipline in the care of their environment.
Therefore, it is now the responsibility of the people to clean up the mess that the government and international corporations have forced them into.
Currently, there is a need for innovation to reuse the current material to reduce the impact of waste until recycling habits normalize across the country.
Rise in innovation
It will be extremely difficult to change the societal structure of elimination that globalization has created. The solution to the plastic pollution crisis does not lie in government intervention alone, because it is through this that water privatization and waste management came into being.
Instead, the plastics crisis can be resolved immediately through education and innovation campaigns, incentives, and increased visibility of grassroots movements.
The informal waste collection sector
Due to increasing economic displacement, some Ghanaian citizens are engaging in the informal waste collection sector. The involvement of the informal waste collector in recycling is a direct response to the socio-political inefficiency of government intervention. Waste pickers play a vital role in the waste reprocessing value chain, but they are often overlooked by the private sector, such as GMPA.
In southern countries, it is estimated that 20 to 30% of recycling is carried out through informal recycling systems, reduce collection and disposal costs. At the same time, Ghanaians have created innovative and independent solutions to the plastic crisis.
There are immense job opportunities in the development of alternative materials that can replace single-use plastics, as well as innovations to support material reuse. Many African countries have already championed innovation, low cost recycling projects which could minimize plastic waste.
One possible method to encourage the use of recycling bins would be for MMDAs to provide local waste collection containers in advantageous areas that facilitate access for the rural population.
The increased accessibility to recycled materials allows Ghanaians to separate and organize raw materials and second-hand goods for resale.
For example, a young entrepreneur in Ghana found a way to create pavers from reused plastic. Nelson boateng, the CEO of Nelplast Ghana limited, started molding pavers from 70% sand and 30% plastic in 2015.
According to Boeteng, plastic pavement blocks are 30% cheaper than cement blocks, and they don’t break, fade, or grow algae. A square meter of its plastic pavers costs 33 GHC ($ 6.90) while concrete blocks cost 98 GHC ($ 20.20).
These innovative solutions create jobs in manufacturing and materials sourcing while promoting sustainability. Additionally, Boateng is one of the few recycling facilities in Accra owned and operated by Ghanaians, and not by international investors such as China.
Waste collection offers a legitimation solution by efficiently collecting post-consumer plastic and selling it for profit to buyers in the industrial sector, like Boateng.
Of 500 waste pickers who sell plastics in Boateng, 60% are women who depend on plastic waste for their livelihood.
In addition, Paul Coffie, a former employee of a recycling center, quit his job in the private sector to seek a lasting solution. He created his own business, Toa House (“Bottle House” ‘in Asanti Twi) where he built houses in plastic bottles filled with clay and sand.
Similar to Boateng, Coffie claims its building material is stronger and costs 33% less than the average brick or cement block house.
Coffie’s business employs around 100 people across the value chain, including bottle collectors, sand fillers and construction workers.
These innovation leaders aspire to change the mindset of the industry and encourage Ghanaians to see waste as an economic opportunity. They found a way to get into the plastics supply chain and dictate the market value of waste.
Ayi-Owen International School
When I arrived at Ayi-Owen School in 2019, I understood that education campaigns in the informal sector would define my solution. I was led to work with the students to encourage environmentalism and the recycling of plastic waste in a localized context. In addition, I met with two local chiefs and environmental dignitaries to discuss possible solutions.
After collaborating with high school students and teachers, I decided to facilitate a cleaning of the water bags on the school campus. I divided the 6th grade into 10 teams of a few students. They rushed to the field to compete to collect the most sachets.