Based on waste management in Ghana, particularly in the urban areas, it is evident that the country faces significant challenges in dealing with solid waste, including plastic waste.
To take a stance, below are the pointers that informs my position;

1. Inadequate Waste Management Infrastructure
The many issues with waste disposal sites in Ghana is known to all persons interested in the subject of waste management in Ghana. Almost all the current systems are not engineered and that archaic practices such as open burning, landfilling, and open dumping are prevalent. This lack of proper waste management infrastructure contributes to environmental pollution and poses risks to ecosystems.

2. Limited Adherence to Environmental Policies
Poor adherence to Ghana’s Environmental Sanitation Policy (ESP), which recommends technologies such as sanitary landfill, controlled dumping with cover, incineration, composting, and recycling. This lack of compliance may contribute to ineffective waste management practices.

3. Toxic Emissions from Archaic Practices
The use of archaic waste management practices, such as open burning, releases toxic pollutants into the air, posing environmental and health risks. The impact of these practices on ecosystems, including the release of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, dioxins, and furans, underscores the urgency of addressing plastic waste responsibly.

4. Policy, Legal, and Institutional Frameworks
Ghana has established policies, regulations, and institutional frameworks to address waste management issues.

Unfortunately, the effectiveness of these frameworks have been hindered by challenges such as weak enforcement, lack of resources, and inadequate organizational capacity.
The most relevant of such laws and policies includes;

 Local Government Act, 1990 (Act 462).

 Environmental Assessment Regulations, 1999 (LI 1652).

 Criminal Code, 1960 (Act 29).

 Water Resources Commission Act, 1996 (Act 522).

 Pesticides Control and Management Act, 1996 (Act 528).

 National Building Regulations, 1996 (LI 1630).

In addition to the above policies and legislations, several guidelines exist as produced by the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology, the EPA, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and the Ministry of Health have prepared the following guidelines and standards for waste management:

 National Environmental Quality Guidelines (1998).

 Ghana Landfill Guidelines (2002).

 Manual for the preparation of district waste management plans in Ghana (2002).

 Guidelines for the management of healthcare and veterinary waste in Ghana (2002).

 Handbook for the preparation of District level Environmental Sanitation Strategies and Action Plans (DESSAPs).

5. Urbanization Challenges
The urban areas in Ghana face specific waste management challenges, with less than 40% of urban residents served with solid waste collection services and less than 30% having acceptable household toilet facilities. The current state of waste management is insufficient to meet the growing urbanization demands.

6. Consumers make plastics unfit for recycling
For plastics to be recycled, they must be clean. However, most of the plastic waste we crease are not clean, and hence, even if the said plastics was recyclable, it cannot go through the recycling process at the said recycling plant. Plastic with food residues in or on it usually cannot be recycled. Only good quality, clean, plastics can go through the recycling process. Sometimes a recycling factory would perform the washing, in order to clean the plastics, but most times the plastic is deemed useless, lumped with the other trash, and thrown in a landfill or an incinerator. Recycling is an energy-intensive process that becomes more costly as additional steps such as post-consumer selection and washing are added.

7. Recyclable plastic products are not always recycled
Adding to these challenges is that the market is set up in a fragmented way that makes it difficult for people selling recycled plastic to find buyers. Recycling facilities are spread out unevenly, meaning that in some areas recyclable plastics cannot be recycled because there is no machinery that would allow for efficient selection and recycling.

CCCFS’ Position

With a staggering 91% of plastics not recycled worldwide, although we have been made to believe that most plastics used in our day to day activities are recyclable, and many of us, we consider plastic recycling a great step toward lowering our ecological footprint and protecting the environment, if only it can happen as we are told by the market leaders in plastic production, it is difficult for me to accept the use of plastics in the current way and form in Ghana.
Out of the global plastics produced, less than 10% of plastic waste generated has been recycled so far. About 75% of global plastics produced are thermoplastics that can be melted and moulded over and over to produce new plastics, which in theory makes all thermoplastics recyclable. The remaining 25% of plastics are thermoset plastics that do not soften when exposed to heat, making them near impossible to recycle. Examples of products in which this type of plastic is used include electrical insulation, ropes, belts, and pipes.

Despite the many issues associated with thermoset plastics use, their durable nature means that thermosets are also disposed of less often, therefore, in theory, causing less damage as an environmental pollutant relative to thermoplastics. However, issues associated with the disposal of thermoplastics include the fact that they are significant contributors to microplastic water contamination, as well as the fact that incineration creates notable contributions to GHG emissions and deteriorates air quality. Recycling these materials is challenging, and recycling is only part of the overall package of solutions required to tackle the plastic pollution crisis.

If the USA as at 2021, had an estimated recycling rate of 6% of plastic despite its advanced plastics waste collection and management and that plastic recycling has failed to become a reality due to long-known technical and economic limitations, then, Ghana should rather shift from single-use plastics entirely and that its safe to say that the Plastic Recycling is indeed a fraud!

Considering these observations, my position that the use of plastics as single-use items is a significant problem for Ghana is valid. Plastic waste, is currently improperly managed in Ghana and the world at large, thus, exacerbates existing challenges in waste disposal and contributes to environmental degradation. A shift towards more sustainable practices, such as reducing single-use plastics, promoting recycling, and adopting advanced waste management technologies, is crucial to address the pressing sanitation and environmental concerns in Ghana.

Dr. Alexander Nti Kani
Climate and Environmental Economist, CCCFS

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