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Opinions of Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Columnist: Nana Adjei

Ghana – 'Recycle, recycle, recycle'?

Ghana, a beautiful country located in West Africa continent, is bestowed with incredible natural resources such as oil, gold, cocoa, timber, bauxite and more.

Despite all these riches, Ghana lacks proper waste management systems. Although it has been many years, as a native Ghanaian I can remember being a high school student that was constantly told about a “lack of this and lack of that”. Unfortunately, the challenges Ghana faced back then continue to outweigh all the positive things our abundant resources should be able to provide.

On September 29th, 2020, Graphic Online posted an article stating that the President of Ghana has commissioned a new recycling and composting facility in the Kumasi Region. After reading this good news, I began to ask myself how Ghana can create and implement a long-term and sustainable solid waste management plan that will guide the entire country to manage its compost, garbage, recycling and other diversion programs on a regional basis.

The plan should guide and direct each region into becoming “green”. The plan must also take into consideration the following: each region’s future waste, aligning each region’s policy with the Ministry of Environment (goals, targets, strategy, and assessment), implement approach to waste management that are environmentally, socially and economically sustainable, ensuring success via accurate quantification and detailed waste audits.

All over the world, waste management discussions tend to focus on, and emphasize, recycling, which has played a crucial role in aiding our environment. Recycling helps every nation conserve resources, reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill, save energy, increase economic stability, and reduce pollution. If something can not be recycled, it is classified as bad for the environment.

Even the Mobius loop has been hijacked to focus on recycling which ignores the other two key components: reduce and reuse. Despite the benefits provided by recycling, a waste management system that ignores reducing and reusing is bound to fail so it is extremely important that Ghana implements all three Rs!

As a reminder, the three Rs - reduce, reuse, recycle – are a larger part of the waste management hierarchy, which categorises waste management from the least to the most preferred (see image at beginning). In spite of this, the third directive (recycle) has become the key focus worldwide, which has resulted in most nations having to adjust to changes in packaging and finding markets for the captured materials.

If Ghana decides to focus on recycling, the industry will face tough questions that demand answers down the line. How do we contain cost? Does all packaging need to be recycled? Who will pay for it all? Who will supply the bins? Who will educate the public? How do we quantify waste reduction and reuse? Once the “easy stuff” (metal, paper, glass, plastic, organic) is captured, what will happen with the other diverted materials?

In conclusion, performance effectiveness can only be assessed by gathering and analyzing data and these results need to be shared with the public to ensure transparency as stated in my previous article “Has plastic become Ghana’s biggest enemy?”.

Regardless of the many issues surrounding diversion of plastics, ensuring that the public is informed of the type(s) of plastic that can be collected for recycling will be imperative.

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