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Ghana without waste; it is possible

If Rwanda has done it successfully devoid of the developmental challenges that confront African countries, then surely, as our peer, Ghana can do it too. 

A country without waste is how I refer to that central African country based on its success story in dealing squarely with beautification, general cleanliness of public spaces and plastic waste in particular.  There is apparently zero tolerance for plastics in that country.

For friends who have visited, Kigali the capital is one of the cleanest, if not the cleanest, in Africa. All that has been achieved through a strict legal regime concerning the use of plastics and indiscriminate littering in that country.

Plastic carrier bags are not tolerated in shops and supermarkets and so people shop with their paper or other bags. If one travels into that country with a plastic bag in one’s luggage, it is taken away before the passenger exits the airport.

Plastic waste

On reflection, I believe Ghana also can do it and become a country without waste, particularly, plastic waste which now has reached intolerable levels.

When recently I raised the topic of plastic waste with a scientist friend of mine, he bemoaned our general lackadaisical attitude to outlaw non-degradable plastic use in our country. He reminded me that Rwanda and those countries looking clean and beautiful have remained so with an actionable law in place.

My friend went on to cite the damaging effect the next generation of Ghanaians will face with a non-productive land, infertile for any kind of cultivation, if the use of non-degradable plastics is not banned in the country.

He said that over the years, a red flag on the problem of plastic pollution has been flagged but the political will to outlaw plastic use has always fallen on deaf ears. To him, it is the easiest solution to solving the issue of waste confronting us.

Environment

As it is, manufacturers and importers of plastic-based materials and products continue to take advantage with an emboldened spirit to flourish their businesses irrespective of the unethical consequences for the environment.

Unfortunately, the sad effects of some types of plastic pollution in the environment which I learnt to my chagrin, is that they can stay in the ground for as long as 50 to 100 years rendering the environment unproductive for any form of cultivation.

That is why responsible environmentally conscious organisations and individuals aware of the dangers of plastic dumping in the environment have started making efforts to minimise or eliminate the use of plastics by introducing recycling initiatives in their business strategies.

One accepts that plastic usage has become a dangerous habit and a silent killer and so the minds of consumers need to be weaned off plastic usage. Bad habits could be hard nuts to crack but it is a possibility if consciences are pricked and alerted to the danger the habit can pose now and into the future.

Responsible corporations

The journey to unveiling the possibilities in dealing with the plastic menace in our environment is what has led some responsible corporations around the world to focus due attention and resources as part of their sustainable developments in communities in which they do business. Some of such sustainable initiatives include the buying back or collection of their plastic waste for recycling.

But not only that. Going further, those businesses are also aiming to use at least 50 per cent of the recycled materials in their packaging.

For total plastic waste eradication from our system, we would need actionable laws on plastics. Laws that make the manufacturing of plastics or the importation of plastics into the country are what we need to save our environment. If they are not available, no one has access to them. It is that simple.

Our ports of entry would do us great favour ensuring critical inspections are carried out on all imports into the country and sanction any importer who flouts the law. The country should have strict quick punitive measures against anyone who flouts the laws on plastics it is passed.

SDGs

As part of the global community, Ghana has signed on to the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As such, we have set objectives to ensure we achieve some of the targets of which a sustainable environment is one.

Though not specifically highlighted as such, a collection of actions including SDG Goal 14: Life below water, part of which specifically relates to reducing impacts from marine plastic pollution.

Other synergies including SDG 13 on climate action, SDG 3 on health and SDG 11 on cities and communities are all impacting on how we care for the environment and consequently, the resulting impact on the health of citizens.

Zero tolerance for waste in general and plastic waste in particular is a possibility for Ghana.  We need a law passed. We need the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) to begin to give attractive incentives and recognition to businesses in Ghana that have taken or will take proactive initiatives to curb the plastic menace, including plastic recycling.

All that action, we should be on our way to a Ghana without plastic waste.

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