Today the 5th of June marks World Environment Day, a day that serves as the United Nation’s principal vehicle for encouraging awareness and action for the protection of our environment. Over the years, it has been celebrated on themes such as “Melting Ice – a Hot Topic”, “Think. Eat. Save”, “Go wild for life”, etc. with each focusing on the effects climate change is having on polar ecosystems and communities; addressing the huge annual wastage and losses in food; reducing and preventing the illegal trade in wildlife respectively.
This year’s World Environment Day’s is “Beat Plastic Pollution” and it is being hosted in India. The aim of the theme is that people may strive to make changes in their everyday lives to reduce the heavy burden of plastic pollution.
Plastic in itself is not a “bad” material as it is a necessity, however, its final disposal is where the problem lies. The use of plastics makes life relatively easier. For instance, it makes it convenient to have water on the go as compared to the days in Ghana when we used to share the same cups in order to have a drink in public areas such as the lorry stations and marketplace. This has helped reduce the spread of some communicable diseases. However, the influx of plastics in the environment has adverse effects on wildlife, wildlife habitat, and humans. The substance used in plastics makes them resistant to many natural processes of degradation, therefore, allowing them to persist in the environment for a long time.
In Ghana, the majority of the plastics we produce end up in our gutters, open drains and finally in our oceans. This results in flooding in some parts of the country every time it rains and has led to the loss of lives and properties. It has been shown to also have hugely detrimental effects on the organisms living in the oceans and we currently have our fishermen complaining about fishing plastics rather than fishes.
The tagline for the theme is “if you can’t reuse it, refuse it”. Simply put, if a plastic item can only be used once and thrown away after, then don’t use it.
For us at the Environmental Service Providers Association (ESPA), we believe that plastic waste is a resource in transit, the reason why we are strongly advocating for the establishment of the National Sanitation Authority. This authority will play a key role in the coordinating of policies and programmes of the new Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources to aid its quest to overcome the waste management challenges facing the country.
Again, we are advocating for the release of the accrued funds accumulated under the Environmental Excise Tax. The tax which is intended for the private sector to establish industries that will recycle plastic waste, produce plastic waste bins and other biodegradable plastics has since not been made available following its coming into effect. With plastic waste constituting about 17 percent of the solid waste generated in Ghana, the release of these funds for its intended purposes will go a long way to help Ghana reduce its plastic wastes as we steadily move towards a clean and healthy nation as well as ease the pressures at the landfill sites as plastics take up a huge chunk of the space.
On this World Environment Day, we want to use this opportunity to call on the government to provide the private waste management companies with the needed support to boost recycling and also educate the general public on the dangers of plastics in the environment to help #BeatPlasticPollution.