Monday, 24 November 2014

Let Us Separate Waste At Source In Ghana - And Turn Plastic Waste Into A valuable Resource

The first National Sanitation Day, which saw Ghanaians from all walks of life taking part in communal cleaning of neighbourhoods across the nation, was a great success.

Making it a monthly exercise - on the first Saturday of each month - was good thinking on the part of the authorities. It was endorsed and welcomed by many - all of whom want it sustained.

To be part of a historic, new and  positve national trend, in keeping the built environment in our towns and cities clean, even a weak  old man like me participated in the Nov. 1, 2014, exercise - and weeded the whole of the space in front of the house I occupy, and picked up discarded "sachet water" plastic waste blown there by the wind, from a nearby eatery, on the fringes of the Jayee University College's carpark.

Whiles collecting the said plastic waste, it struck me that if all households in urban Ghana separated their waste at source,  we would be in a position to turn plastic waste into a valuable resource - around which thousands of jobs could be created, and from which a thriving recycling industry,  could eventually evolve.

A company like Zoomlion Ghana Limited,  could  develop an empowering value-chain for a recycling industry, which benefits thousands of micro-entrepreneurs across the country, who collect and sell plastic waste - if waste is separated at source  nationwide.

Perhaps the Ghanaian media should take it upon itself - as its contribution to the nation-building effort - to promote separating waste at source throughout the nation.
(Incidentally, waste seperation at source, is the practise in our household - with all the organic food waste we generate at home, spread underneath the clumps of plantain we grow, regularly. Doing so, produces the most marvellous plantain for "red-red" dishes, when they ripen. As it happens,  "red-red" is a favourite of this skinny old vegetarian - yours truly. But I digress.)

When separated at source, instead of ending up in landfill sites, plastic waste can be put to many uses. Jewelry made from recycled plastic is very popular amongst the environmentally-conscious in the wealthy nations of the Western world, for example.

Many young unemployed Ghanaians could be trained to make and  sell jewelry made from recycled  plastic waste on online marketplace websites, including eBay.

Plastic waste can also be mixed with bitumen to construct plastic roads, which are more durable than ordinary roads. It is a low-tech and cost-effective way to climate-change-proof roads in Ghana, and enable the nation to develop a road network able to cope with extreme weather resulting from climate change.

Plastic roads cost less to maintain, because they are pothole-free. Being water-resistant also means that they are not washed away by heavy rains - which has been the case in India, which now has an expanding network of plastic roads.

Plastic pellets could also be produced from plastic waste and sold to manufacturers of plastic products such as plastic chairs and tables. Above all, we could save the remainder of our dwindling forests, by utilising plastic waste to produce lumber substitutes.

One hopes that in the days before the next National Sanitation Day clean-up exercise takes place, the Ghanaian media will  encourage Ghanaians to separate  their waste at source, on a regular basis.

It would help the national effort to keep our environment healthy and clean, tremendously, if Media houses in Ghana could offer free advertising to help plastic recycling companies grow their plastic-waste-collection-footprint, as a CSR initiative.

If we are not to be engulfed by plastic waste, separating waste at source in Ghana, is a must.

Let us separate waste at source as a people - and turn plastic waste into a valuable resource that creates wealth and jobs: as thousands of poor people will be able to collect waste on a regular basis to sell to large recycling companies like Zoomlion.

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