In many African countries including Ghana and around the globe, plastics play a very important role in the economic lives of people due to its durability, portability, and affordability. Plastics play a significant role in transporting Ghana’s indigenous goods. Indigenous food products like ‘‘waakye’’ ‘‘kenkey’’ are no exceptions.
However, these poly bags are single-used, on average these plastics can only be used for a maximum of an hour, but live with us in the environment (land-fills) for decades of years.
The sad reality in Ghana is that most plastics we use are non-biodegradable which end up either on land-fills (which is not effectively regulated), gutters or in water bodies. Reports from the World Bank have it that Africa produces almost 70 million tonnes of waste each year. It is believed that as poorer people move to middle class status there will be pressure on the consumption of plastics and the resulting effect leading to more waste generation.
The quantum of waste generated is expected to increase exponentially as more urban centres spring up. Most businesses in Ghana are more focused on their profit margins without considering the environment in which their businesses are operating. Giving equal attention and prominence to the environment will lead to a green economy.
Green economy will also guarantee sustainability. A classical example of adopting a circular economy is where Philippines give their enormous plastic waste a second life by using recycled plastics to manufacture cement and build roads. This drastically minimises the plastic garbage found on land-fill sites and drains. Embracing this approach of circular economy in Ghana would save the nation the accompanying problems like perennial flooding after heavy downpour due to plastic waste choking gutters and other drainage systems.
• Governments Generating Revenues from Plastic Waste Through Environmental Policies
Governments all over the world generate revenue from poly bags as a way of controlling plastic waste. UK countries including Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland introduced the ‘‘carrier bag levy.’’ This compels consumers to send their own poly bags from homes to shops or use bags that have longer shelf-lives in order not to pay a fee for a bag. Wales began charging 5 pence for plastic bags in 2011which resulted in a 71% reduction of plastic waste generated. 80% of the revenue generated from the levy goes to charity while 20% is channelled into government treasury (ec.europa.eu). Italy also has a law that poly bags produced for commercial uses must indicate what they are made of and how they can be re-used and or/recycled (reusebags.gov.uk/carrier-bags).
In Ghana, black poly bags are normally given out for free in most shops after purchase of items which is definitely not the case elsewhere. Can Ghana government adopt and implement the ‘‘carrier-bag charge’’ as a way of generating revenue and minimising plastic waste?
Assuming 10 Gp is placed on each carrier bag/poly bag and 30 million Ghanaians use it a day will accrue to about GHC 3 million revenue generated into government coffers. This cumulative revenue (generated yearly/quarterly) will help meet the numerous government projects such as the construction of roads, provision of potable water amongst others. South Africa adopts the use of a mobile van called ‘‘Packa- Ching.’’
This van travels across low income countries to buy plastic waste, metal cans and paper. The van pays for these wastes where the money is sent into an e-wallet payment system called eVoucher.Mobi. Research shows that in recycling the difference among countries’ performance can be seen in the economic fortunes as they adopt a circular economy coupled with the consistent recycling and recovering activities. Efficiency analysis was rather seen in the improvement of economic fortunes (Robaina, 2020).
• Adopting Environmental Policy Instruments in Ghana
Environmental Policy Instruments help to mitigate the impacts businesses have on the environment by collaborating with government actions. Few of these environmental policy instruments include;
o Polluter-Pays Principle: This is a widely accepted practice in most European countries which works by making the polluters pay for the cost of managing the harm they cause in order to save the environment and human health. But my question is how effectively can this principle be applied here in Ghana? Taking the sachet water producing companies as an example would imply that they should be charged per the quantum of waste they generate annually (through information from waste companies).
o Producer responsibility: Due to the ever-increasing wastes generated, governments all over the world have resorted to making producers of goods face the responsibility for their products from inception to end -of -life (post-consumer stage). It then provides incentives to the producer in a bid to minimise wastes and rather encourage producers to practise a circular economy approach through product design/recycling.
This approach minimises the impacts businesses have on the environment since products can be repaired, recycled and reused over and over again, and not the ‘‘cradle-to-grave’’ approach, but a ‘‘cradle-to-cradle’’ approach.
o The Role of the Ghanaian Media in Educating the Masses
The media has a significant role to play in influencing positively the large majority of Ghanaians to become environmentally responsible. There could be flagship programmes by media houses on the environment which will be purposely dedicated towards improving sanitation issues and our roles as citizens. Programmes in reference to the Environment.
For instance ‘‘Time with our Environment’’ ‘‘Going/Living Green’’ ‘‘Eco-Education’’ where environmental experts would be invited to provide alternatives to making our beloved country cleaner and healthier.
I personally refer to the individual responsibilities of citizens towards the environment as ‘‘Consumer Responsibilities’’ where fly-tipping would be discouraged.
• Jiao, C. (2020). ‘‘The Philippines is Making Roads & Cement With Plastic Garbage.’’ Sourced from: Bloomberg.com. Retrieved on October 09, 2020.
• Racapé, C. (2019). ‘‘Plastic Waste- a new currency in low-income countries.’’ Retrieved from: gsma.com. on October 12, 2020
• Robaina, M. Murillo, K. Rocha, E. & Villar, J. (2020). ‘‘Circular Economy in Plastic Waste-Efficiency analysis of European countries.’’ 730:139038
For clarification and consultancy services you can please contact the author through [email protected] By Richard K. Asare (Dela)