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Opinions of Friday, 15 March 2019

Columnist: Yahaya Yakubu (PhD, M.Eng., MA, PGD, BSc.)

Relationship between Festivities and Packaging Waste in Ghana


Solid waste constitutes a range of trash from human and animal activities that are willingly disposed of as undesirable and obsolete. It is produced from commercial, residential and industrial activities in a given area, and may well be managed in different ways.

Solid waste can be characterized based on material such as metal, paper, glass, organic waste, and plastic. Characterization may also be based on hazardous potential, including radioactivity, flammability, infectious nature, toxicity, or non-toxicity. It may be based on the origin of the waste, such as domestic, commercial, industrial, demolition, institutional, and construction. Irrespective of the source, hazard potential or content, solid waste must be managed consistently to guarantee environmental best practices.

Packaging includes anything used to protect, contain, handle, deliver or present processed goods and raw materials. It comprises items such as:
• pallets
• boxes
• labels
• crates
• tubes and cores
• containers
• tape and materials for wrapping, binding and tying
• bags and sacks

Much of the packaging waste (plastics, cardboards, etc.) arriving in Ghana or made in Ghana is mostly not recovered and reused or recycled. As a result, it has created a rubbish problem that now pollutes every corner of our mother land Ghana. We are all to blame even though it is generally believed that manufacturers got us into this mess, I believe our choices also count.

While packaging has revolutionized the way, we store and consume food, there is now so much of it that landfills in most countries including Ghana cannot cope. Some of it is poisonous, and some of it never degrades. It can take up 450 years for some types of plastic bottles to break down; one type, PET, while recyclable, doesn’t biodegrade at all.

While the signs and actions of Governments to tackle the solid waste menace head on are visible, there are equally available choices for the citizenry to make in support of its efforts. Choices such as source Reduction, Reuse and Recycling are available for environmentally conscious consumers to make every day.

Since most of the packaged consumables are imported, it will not be out of place to say that patronizing more locally manufactured or produced goods will not only bring direct economic benefits, but will in the short to long term contribute more to the socio-economic fortunes of our country. This is how we can each contribute to the realizing the President, His Excellency, Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo’s vision of making our nation clean, green and healthy. So, it is possible to grow together our domestic industries by consuming more made in Ghana goods, while at the same time keeping our dear nation clean at all times.

To throw more light on how consuming/patronizing more local goods/services can help keep Accra clean, I will like to give a practical illustration by using data obtained from the central business district of Accra (CBD) (Tudu, Makola, and Rawlings Circle) obtained from the operations department of Zoomlion Ghana Limited. This is illustrated in the chart below.

This data covers the period from 10th December, 2018 to 27th December, 2018. From the Figure above the waste collected from the CBD increased from 10th December, 2018 to 24th December, 2018, and then dropped to the lowest on 25th December, 2018. It then increased on 26th December and normalized thereafter.

Taking the differences in generation rates from 10th December, 2018 to 24th December, 2018, there were huge increase of waste generated from the CBD area, much of which is packaging waste. The only decrease occurred on 25th December, 2018, by which most shops had closed for the Christmas festivities.

Way forward

It is universally evident that no Government on its own can do it all alone. Over the years successive governments have tried their best to create the enabling environment for private sector participation, which have yielded some positive results. However, there is still more room for improvement, that will entice more private investment in the waste management sector.

But in the meantime, government will need to come out more sustainable ways of waste management financing to encourage those players already in the business. This is necessary to avoid any pull out by the current private waste management companies that have contributed diversely to the socio-economic fortunes of Ghana. It is also important to support the private sector in the process of securing adequate funding at realistic and affordable interest rates.

Not all, the budgetary allocation for the ministry of sanitation and water resources should be increased, since its role is vital in the socio-economic development of our beloved country. The roles of this ministry cuts across all the others and should be given special attention at all times.

The role of all Ghanaian citizens and other non-citizens resident in Ghana in this collective effort cannot be overemphasized as well. We each have a critically role to play in ensuring that Ghana is clean and healthy.

Our rights and responsibilities share the same umbilical cord, and it is therefore based on this inseparable context that we need to participate in the good call to contribute our very best towards keeping Ghana clean at all times. Our daily decisions and undertakings have a direct bearing on the waste streams that are generated, and if carefully considered can put the name of Mother Ghana in Books of the Cleanest Countries Globally.

Permit me to end by saying that as consumers, we can also vote with our packets and wallets for More Made in Ghana Goods (#MMinGM), which will promote sustainable waste management and keep Our Beloved Mother Ghana Clean and Healthy at all Times.

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