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Regional News of Tuesday, 22 February 2022

Source: GNA

We are consuming too much microplastics - Environment Minister

File photo of a person drinking water from a  plastic bottle File photo of a person drinking water from a plastic bottle

Dr. Kwaku Afriyie, the Minister of Environment, Science, Technology, and Innovation says the consumption of microplastic in the food chain of Ghanaians is on the increase, needing intervention.

“Every individual consumes microplastic equivalent to the size of a complementary card monthly through the food chain,” he noted and indicated government’s commitment to fully implement the National Plastics Policy.

Consumption of microplastics is due to the utilisation of single-use plastics as lining for food whiles cooking.

The single-used plastics find their way into water bodies, which are ingested by fishes and consumed by people. Others also parcel already cooked food with single-used plastics.

The Minister said: “Similarly, excessive exposure of bottled and sachet water to sunshine to a high level of degree makes the water unwholesome.”

Dr Afriyie, who was speaking to journalists after a visit to some recycling companies in Accra, said the utilisation of single used plastics had permeated into every facet of the human endeavor, especially in the food processing system with grave consequences that must be checked.

He said the chemicals in the plastics, including stabilizers, lubricants, fillers, and plasticizers when exposed to some environmental conditions, such as heat, caused some elements in the plastic to leak into the food.

Dr. Afriyie said the chemicals were toxic and could cause cancer and hormonal issues and that the country was sinking in a sea of plastics, saying the government would not hesitate to enact legislation where necessary to punish plastic litters through noncustodial sentences.

“At the policy end we are doing well but the weakness is at the implementation side. Efforts are underway to ensure a well-coordinated approach to deal with the situation,” he said.

The Minister said the recently cabinet-approved Ghana's National Plastics Management Policy (NPMP), had received international collaboration to translate the policy objectives into actual comprehensive managed plastics to address current environmental challenges and as a vehicle for sustainable development and circular economy.

Dr. Afriyie stated that the main objective of the NPMP was to grow the economy, create jobs, and protect the environment to ensure sustainable development.

The policy had also been developed as a road map to progressively reduce the use of plastics, recover, recycle, and re-manufacture plastics.

He said based on the object of the NPMP to tackle the menace of plastics pollution, Ghana was selected as the first African regional partner of the Global Plastic Action Partnership in 2019.

Dr. Afriyie said all forms of plastics were resources that could be processed into useful products, including building materials.

Ghana has emerged as a regional front-runner committed to creating a domestic recycling industry that protects both the environment and impoverished, mostly female community of waste pickers.

“We are well on our way to becoming the regional model for implementing a Circular Economy regime for the plastics sector in Africa,” he said.

Dr. Kwaku Adjepong, the Chief Executive Officer of Dophil Roofing System, said the Company was poised to address one of the critical challenges faced by the housing sector to make housing affordable.

The Company, through extensive research, had introduced a new range of eco-friendly roofing solutions named Ecophils Roofing Tiles, he said.

Mr. Nadim Ghanem, Jr., the Chief Executive Officer of Mini Plast, said his Company recycled plastics to produce high-quality, custom-made plastic packaging solutions to its industrial customers, including those in the food and confectionery sector, and the paint industry.

About 2.58 million metric tonnes of raw plastics are imported into Ghana annually, out of which 73 percent effectively ends up as waste, while only 19 percent is re-used, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Sadly, less than 0.1 percent of the waste is recycled, meaning all the plastic wastes generated end up in the environment.