As with most cities around the world, trash is a huge concern in Accra. Over population, poor sewage systems, humidity and insufficient trash collection has left Accra teeming with sanitation concerns.
The irony of the issue is that to ensure Ghanaians have access to cheap clean water, sachets approved by the Ghanaian government that meet the Ghana Standards Board's sanitation requirements, are being sold all over the country and these sachets are one of the main contributors to the trash that blankets the streets and gutters.
The tragedy of this situation is that with proper recycling programmes this issue can be easily tackled. Luckily for the citizens of Accra, Trashy Bags, an Accra based NGO, focusing on sustainability and the environment has taken on the task of cleaning up the streets of Accra.
Entrepreneur, Stuart Gold in conjunction with his former partner started Trashy Bags in November 2007. Their vision was to contribute to cleaning up the streets of Accra. What started as a small venture in conjunction with the Accra Metropolitan Assembly and Zoom Lion, who were initially seeking to clean the streets of Accra for the African Cup of Nations has turned into a full blown effort.
According to Elvis Aboluah, Production manager at Trashy Bags, they thought, “Why don't we turn trash into useful products?” And so the mission of Trashy Bags was born.
Trashy Bags sells backpacks, duffle bags, purses, wallets, and many more products made solely out of Ghana's sachet trash, including used FanMilk sachets. Stuart Gold claims that “This idea isn't revolutionary, but it's a good idea nonetheless”.
Trashy Bags employs a permanent staff of about 60, which does not include the local Ghanaians that are compensated for collecting the sachets. To date, Trashy Bags has taken over 10 million sachets off the streets of Accra.
Currently located in Dworwulu, they have implemented a strategic process for the production of their recycled merchandise. After collection, the bags are cut open and reshaped to ensure thorough sanitation during the washing process.
Next the bags are brought to the washing station where the bags are washed, sterilised and rinsed. The clean bags are then laid out to dry.
After the bags are cleaned and prepared, they are ready to be sent to the tailors where each tailor is responsible for sewing specific parts of the final product. In the final stage the last tailor compiles all the parts, makes the final touches, and out comes a hand made, locally produced bag.
Speaking with Stuart Gold, his vision actually began with GC Projects, an NGO dedicated to getting people out of bad accommodation, and www.stopkillingus.org, an environmental NGO, devoted to climate change in Africa, and has consequently expanded into trashy bags.
Gold is concerned that Africa is suffering greatly from this environmental situation without necessarily being a large contributor to the problem. When asked about the future of the venture, Gold hopes that Trashy Bags will become a sustainable company, both commercially and environmentally.
Talks of being certified, Fair Trade and energy self-sufficiency are in the mix, but for now Trashy Bags just seeks to be taking trash off the streets of Accra, contributing to the beautification of the city, and helping the citizens of Accra solve their sanitation problems.