The Environmental Service Providers Association (ESPA) has expressed misgivings over the intention by the government to ban the use of plastics in the country. 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 because plastics in themselves are not harmful.
According to the association, its argument was hinged on the fact that sachet water for instance had become the most common source of drinking water for majority of the public and that the country’s transition from using plastic cup to sell water to the use of water in sachet had significantly reduce incidences of communicable diseases.
“Any decision to ban plastics, therefore, must take into recognition the fact that sachet water has become not just a basic necessity for home but also a source of employment for tens of Ghanaians,” it said.
Under the circumstances, the association said it wish to urge the government to hasten slowly with the ban on plastics since re-adoption of ‘iced water’ sold in cups could arise once more and pose concern for public health.
The association indicated that plastic waste constituted just about 17 percent of solid waste generated in the country which translated into 510 metric tons of plastic waste produced in Accra alone on a daily basis.
“Figures from the Accra Plastic Waste Management Programme further indicate that 120 metric tons pf plastics are recycled daily in Ghana.
“Most of the plastics are, however, recycled by companies operating on small-scale and with some support, they will be able to expand their operations,” it said.
It observed that the Accra Compost Plant at Adjen Kotoku in the Greater Accra Region turned plastic waste into pellets which were sold to plastic manufacturing companies that also recycled and turned the pellets into plastic products such as litter bins, bowls, chairs and tables.
According to ESPA, quite recently the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and technology (KNUST) manufactured a machine that converted plastic waste into diesel and as such wondered why the country should contemplate banning plastics when there were new technologies developed for local industries that were capable of turning plastic waste into diesel to support Ghana’s developmental needs.
Additionally, it said there were about 10,000 youths employed in sachet water production, plastic waste collection and the plastic recycling business.
“In an economy with very few job opportunities, rendering over 10,000 people jobless will create harsh socio-economic conditions for those who would become affected. What needs to be done is to rather support recycling companies to expand their capacities in order that they may employ more of the youth who are unemployed,’’’ it said.
While it accepts that some people have resorted to the wrongful use and disposal of plastics, the ESPA said it strongly believed that with adequate education and technology know-how, plastics could be turned into useful materials that would not harm the environment.
In 2011, the government imposed an environmental tax in support of plastic recycling in the country. Currently, over GHS 60 million has accumulated from the tax, but recycling companies were yet to benefit from it.
“The ESPA urges the government to release the funds to support local industries to expand their recycling plants so they can convert higher volumes of plastics into items” it said.
Last Saturday, President John Dramani Mahama warned of a possible ban on plastics, describing it as an exceedingly harmful pollutant. According to Rwanda banned the use of plastics; nobody uses plastics and yet they are surviving”.
He made reference to Rwanda which took the decision to ban the use of plastics on October 4, 2004. Since then, he said, the country had been working to keep its plastic ban policies alive.