Rate of plastic recycling too low

On Tuesday June 5, the world celebrated World Environment Day as adopted by the UN; but in Ghana the Minister of Environment, Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, has expressed his dissatisfaction with the low rate of plastic recycling in the country.

According to the minister, only 2 percent of total plastic waste generated by households and businesses is recycled – and that accounts for the heavy plastic pollution in the system. In fact, a cursory stroll along the country’s coastline shows the extent to which plastic pollution has engulfed our environment.

Globally, it is estimated that more than 8 million tonnes of plastic waste ends up in the ocean – and the evidence is clear since whales are often washed ashore and when dissected reveal abnormal quantities of plastic products, to which many have attributed the deaths of the sea mammals.

Ghana has had its fair share of whales and large sea mammals like dolphins washed ashore with no indication of the cause of death. According to data available, if the present trend continues by 2050 the oceans will have more plastic waste products than fish – and that is alarming considering the amount of people which rely on the oceans for their livelihoods and food requirements.

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Therefore, the minister hinted that government is committed to instituting a national plastic policy, which we believe is long overdue considering the amount of plastic waste in the system. We understand the policy is in its draft stage, and that when it travels the full haul of legislative procedure it should soon be passed into law.

We are aware that some progressive African countries like Rwanda and Kenya have laws in place that limit the amount of plastic bags used for shopping, with some having a total ban in place. However, the minister indicated that Ghana is not yet ready for a total ban but, at least, there must be some limits on the quantity of plastic bags allowed in the system.

However, there are multiple uses for plastic waste once it is recycled – and probably that is where we are falling short as a country. Plastics are commonly used in building materials such as flooring, pipes, drainage, and damp-proof membranes. The safety benefits of plastics compared to other materials have also made it a popular choice for scaffolding boards and curbstones.

Bottles, trays and many other packaging materials are constructed from recycled plastic. Using recycled plastic can lower costs for manufacturers and offer a solution that resists rot and vandalism, and is durable in the long-term.

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