Ghana stands to benefit immensely from recycling if the government coordinates its initiatives, invests sufficient funds in recycling ventures and helps Ghanaians change their attitude about the issue.
Despite the fact that more than 50 per cent of waste in Ghana is recyclable, there appears to be very little political will to address the escalating problem.
For example, even though the government set up a task force to tackle the issue of plastic recycling, this group received absolutely no funding at all in 2012 according to a source, and was even forced to borrow office space from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Recycling is the most hygienic way of managing waste in the country, but the government has so far been incapable of making any significant progress on this important endeavor. The government stands to create jobs and generate a lot of additional revenue if recycling is given the priority that advocates, researchers and waste management companies say it deserves. According to one environmental scientist, government should be doing more, creating awareness on recycling and working with stakeholders in the private sector.
However, if Ghanaians don’t change their attitude about recycling, then the country cannot move forward in its quest to find lasting solutions to its waste management crisis.
Because Ghana is not giving recycling much attention, experts say the government is missing out on various opportunities and benefits.
For example, in a part of the world where unemployment is rife, additional government support for existing recycling companies could help create jobs for unemployed Ghanaians. Adelaide Asante, a research scientist with the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research, said in an interview with The Weekend Globe that GH 1.2-billion cedis could be generated every month through plastic waste recycling initiatives.
But at the moment, the few recycling companies that exist in Ghana face huge challenges.
In fact, when Ms. Asante started researching the issue in 2008, there were 15 different recycling companies, but many of those have since collapsed.
In Ghana, the main hindrance to recycling is that waste is not sorted at individual homes. As a result, companies have to invest enormous sums of money to separate recyclables from other waste before they can begin the process of recycling. Ms. Asante noted that until waste separation is done, it is not possible to have a thriving recycling industry.
“Investors have to use so much money on only segregation,” Ms. Asante said. “We have one bin. And all refuse is dumped into just one bin… Until segregating is done we can’t move forward.”
Even though the government has launched campaigns to create awareness, several non-governmental organizations, as well as government agencies, have for years advocated the need for government to be doing more on recycling.
One of the things experts are suggesting is that the government should invest heavily in recycling initiatives, such as the task force on plastics recycling.
Emmanuel Salu, the Director of Environmental Education at the Environmental Protection Agency, said that despite plans by the EPA to disseminate information on the benefits of recycling, their efforts over the years have been hampered due to underfunding by the government.
“We are financially constrained with regards to what we do at the EPA,” Mr. Salu said in an interview. “The funds are not enough. So, if there are no funds, we as salaried workers cannot fund those projects.”
The government should also enact policies that will ensure that people segregate their refuse, according to Juliana Arhin, vice president of the Coalition of Non-Governmental Organizations in Waste Management (CONWAM). To achieve this, she said, government should provide
more bins on the streets and waste management companies, such as Zoomlion Ghana and Waste, should also ensure homes are given separate bins for garbage, recyclables and organic
waste such as plantain peels.
If this is to work, she added, then a bi-partisan approach should be adopted by all parties involved, and government should encourage more private public partnerships (PPPs) in the recycling industry.
However, all these initiatives and policies will amount to nothing if Ghanaians don’t change their attitude about the need to recycle. Advocates say it will take a collective effort from government and the citizenry if the country wants to have a clean and safe environment.
Theodora Boadu, an owner of a supermarket in Pig Farm, a suburb of Accra, has just one bin in front of her shop. Her customers dump all their recyclable bottles in the one bin after they are done drinking. In an interview with The Weekend Globe, she says she wished she could separate
her refuse. But even if she did, the huge garbage trucks will come and mix all the waste and recyclables back together again.
Ms. Boadu says she believes recycling of waste is non-negotiable but she will only separate her refuse if she sees a clear commitment from the government in this regard.
“If government wants me to do my part, let them start first by providing the bins, then I will follow suit,” she said. “That’s the way it’s done. But if that won’t happen, then I won’t waste my
Samuel Ofori, one of Ms. Boadu’s customers, said that like many Ghanaians, he is also worried about the indiscriminate disposal of waste. But he insists that if separate bins were provided by the various waste management companies, then waste separation would be easier.
“I see filth everywhere,” he said. “But there isn’t much to do about it if government does not do its part. If government does its part, we will all help. At the end of the day, it will be of enormous benefit to all.’’
But Ms. Arhin, of CONWAM, says that successful recycling programs require a collective effort. Having a booming recycling sector, she added, also requires Ghanaians to make recycling a priority.
“Our attitude as a nation should change,” she said. “We should know that we want a better Ghana. And to have a better Ghana… a real change is needed.”