THE Environmental Service Providers Association (ESPA) wishes to express its misgivings about the intended ban on the use of plastics as suggested by President John Mahama on Saturday, July 11, this year.
President Mahama warned of a possible ban on plastics which he described as becoming pernicious pollutant. According to him, “if producers of plastics don’t do something about it, then we may have to go the Rwandan way. Rwanda banned the use of plastics; nobody uses plastics and yet they are surviving.”
Rwanda took a lone decision to ban the use of plastics in October 4, 2004. The country has since been working to keep its plastic ban policy alive but the ESPA does not think that plastics in themselves are harmful and should be banned.
The association is of the view that banning the use of plastics is not the right way to deal with the plastic waste menace that the country is currently grappling with. Our argument is hinged on the fact that sachet water has for instance become the most common source of drinking water for the majority of Ghanaians. Ghana’s transition from selling water in plastic cups to sachet water has significantly reduced incidence of communicable diseases. Any decision to ban plastics must therefore, take cognizance of the fact that sachet water has become not just a basic necessity for homes but also, generating employment for hundreds of Ghanaians.
The ESPA wishes to urge the government to hasten slowly with a ban on plastics as a re-adoption of the ‘iced water’ sold in /cups could pose public health concerns.
Available data indicates that, plastic waste constitutes about 17 per cent of solid waste generated in Ghana. This translates into 510 metric tons of plastic waste generated in Accra alone on a daily basis. Figures from the Accra Plastic Waste Management Program indicate that 120 metric tons of plastics are recycled daily in Ghana. This figure includes about 40 per cent of empty sachet water plastics in Accra. However, most of these plastics recycling companies are operating on small scale and would be able to expand their operations with some support. Besides, the Accra Compost Plant at Adjen Kotoku in the Greater Accra Region turns plastic wastes into pellets and these is sold to plastic manufacturing companies that also recycle the pellets into plastic products including litter bins, bowls, chairs, and tables.
Moreover, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) recently manufactured a machine that converts plastic waste into diesel. Why should we contemplate banning plastics when we could support new technologies especially those developed for local realities to turn this plastic waste into diesel to support Ghana’s developmental needs.
Additionally, 10,000 youths are employed in the sachet water production, plastic waste collection and recycling business sector. In an economy with very few job opportunities, rendering over ten thousand people jobless will create harsh socioeconomic conditions for those who will be affected. What needs to be done is to support the recycling companies to expand their capacity and employ more of our teaming unemployed youth.
There is no doubt that some people have resorted to the wrongful use and disposal of plastics but the ESPA strongly believes that with adequate education and technology plastics can be turned into priceless materials so it does not harm the environment.
The government in 2011 imposed an environmental tax to support plastic recycling in the country. Currently, over Ghc 60 million has been collected from the tax but recycling companies are yet to benefit from the revenue accrued. The ESPA again, wishes to urge the government to release the fund to support local industries to expand their recycling plants to enable them convert higher volumes of plastics into useful items.