GHANA: Active Citizen Discuss “Ban on Plastics”

Dumpsite Dominated with Polythene Bags Set on Fire to Burn. Akrofuom, Ghana.

A number of active citizens from all parts of Ghana gather to discuss whether the country should place a complete ban on plastic bags.

In Mid-2015, the government of Ghana intended to place a partial ban on light plastics – in response to the growing nuisance of light plastics – polythene bags, and water sachets. The intention of the plastic ban attracted a lot of public discussion among industrial key players and policy makers which annulled the establishment of the ban. To satisfy the market and the streets free from non-degradable garbage, the government instituted a law for all plastic production in the country to be oxy-biodegradable – making Ghana one of the few countries commercializing the use of oxy-biodegradable plastics.

Despite this effort, most industries are refusing to comply with the production standards. Water is still sold in non-degradable plastics except some few companies including Special Ice. Gradually, filth is occupying all idle public spaces in town and some cities.

In a discussion, some active citizens clearly see the ban of plastics in Ghana to be impossible, others flagging plastic waste as a resource which needs to utilized, while some other few think a plastic ban is the solution to the waste menace. An interesting factor on the subject rests in the retail of plastic bags and whether the plastic waste is viewed as a resource. Samuel Boakye asked, “How much of our population is able to gain employment from the sale and manufacture of these bags. How would the ban affect such people?” Therefore, government must rather bring up more recycling agents and help provide necessary capitals to facilitate the use of plastic bags.

Joshua Amponsem, an environmental activist, commented that there will be more employment and economic boost if plastic is banned and replaced with paper and cotton bags. He said “These people won’t lose their jobs at all. They will be the same people retailing the paper and cotton bags. I’ll give you an example; this December, there have been an introduction of cotton bags in Kumasi because of the heavyweight items people purchase during Christmas. Although expensive, it is able to serve a better purpose and last longer, plus it is reusable. So people are buying it.” He furthered “The people who retail, & sell the plastic bags are the same people selling these cotton bags. More to it, more jobs will be created through the use of paper and cotton bags. This will mean that, we will need more farmers – Bamboo.”

Inappropriate Disposal of Plastics at University Gardens, Cape Coast.

Plastic waste is choking drains and killing water bodies gradually. “Preserving our marine lives such as turtles is very critical because it can generate more foreign exchange as tourists come in to observe turtles on our beaches at dawns. Fishermen in Ghana instead of having a bumper catch of fish often catch plastic wastes due to ocean plastic pollution,” Belinda said. “I think the only means to stop the damage plastic waste cause the people of Ghana is to educate individual on these harmful effect”, She added. To respond to education as a means of tackling the problem, Kelly Anyomitse highlighted that education will take several years to cause change in the attitude of Ghanaians towards plastics. With the current rate of pollution and its associated damage, can we afford to resort to education alone?

Looking at the number of years plastics have been in use in Ghana but yet there has not been any robust approach to manage its waste, majority of the citizens concluded that the best way out is to increase the price of plastic bags (making it unaffordable/unattractive to many people), then introduce the paper bags which are cheap and the expensive reusable cotton bags. Eventually, residents will phase out plastic bags because they will have better alternatives. The existing recycling companies can then focus on the water bottles, so we have a clean city free from light plastics. The nuisance is caused by the light plastic bags.

As active citizens of Ghana, we are hopeful that our nation will place more value in protecting the life (Air, Water, and Food) offered to us by Mother Earth and ensuring quality environmental standards to promote good health and better life.

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