Development Discourse with Amos Safo: Turning waste into jobs and cash


The commissioning of recycling and composts plants in some parts of Ghana is perhaps an indication that the country can turn the waste menace into an economic opportunity for many people.

In August 2022, President Akufo-Addo inaugurated an Integrated Recycling and Compost Plant in Damongo. Earlier in 2021, the president commissioned Phase II of the Accra Compost and Recycling Plant (ACARP) to kick-start the country’s new vision of waste recycling as an economic activity. This is intended to minimise landfill use and improve environmental sustainability.

Waste generation and its management has been a huge environmental and developmental challenge to Ghana, though it has the potential to become an equally huge economic and employment opportunity for both the youth and adults. It is hoped that the new direction will help find a permanent solution to the country’s waste menace.

During the Integrated Recycling and Compost Plant’s inauguration in Damongo, President Akufo-Addo affirmed that waste management has been a perennial problem for our country. Fortunately for Ghana, the Jospong Group of Companies and its Executive Chairman, Mr. Joseph Siaw Agyapong, has taken the challenge under a public-private partnership to turn the waste challenge into an economic opportunity. It is refreshing to note that the Jospong Group of Companies, a solely Ghanaian owned business, is championing implementation of the Integrated Recycling and Compost Plants in Ghana’s16 regions in partnership with government.

The Damongo plant and others yet to be commissioned in Tamale, Wa, Bolgatanga and  Nalerigu have the capacity to receive, sort, process and recycle municipal solid waste into organic compost to enhance agricultural production. Not only do the plants have the capacity to treat and safely dispose of medical waste, they can also recycle plastic and metal scrap for use in the steel and plastic manufacturing sectors. At least, the shortage of fertiliser and its impact on food production due to the Russia-Ukraine war makes investment in compost recycling a prudent policy. For this reason, the intervention must be supported by all Ghanaians to succeed and hopefully be replicated in other West African countries.

What exactly is waste?

Waste is anything that people no longer value and often dispose of – sometimes in a manner that threatens the environment. Waste is an empty box that contained the new television set you just got; or the paper and bag you used to carry stuff you bought at the supermarket. These things are now waste because we don’t have any further need for them. However, waste isn’t entirely useless because there are now industries which can turn them into other economically useful products.

Without doubt, waste will remain part of the human experience and existence. The most common types of solid waste in Ghana and Africa include: domestic waste (garbage and rubbish produced by individuals and households); commercial waste (solid waste coming from business places such as stores, markets, office buildings, restaurants, shops and bars); and industrial waste (produced by factories and processing plants). Other forms of waste include agricultural waste, hazardous waste, healthcare waste and electronic waste.

Population growth and waste

Since waste is a product of human existence, it follows that as populations grow waste generation will increase. Africa has one of the fastest-growing populations in the world, with an annual population growth rate of nearly three percent over the last 20 years. With the world’s highest birth rate, its current population of nearly one billion people is predicted to more than double in 40 years to 2.3 billion – accounting for nearly half of projected global growth over that period. To manage both population and waste, intensive waste management is bound to play a huge role in Africa’s future.

Africa is home to some of the fastest-growing economies in the world, and the number of people moving to the cities is growing at a staggering rate. It is estimated that up to 500 million Africans will live in the continent’s cities by 2030. This rapid urbanisation will definitely lead to an explosion in the volume of waste generated on the continent. Recent studies show that the higher the rate of economic development and urbanisation, the greater the volume of waste produced.

It is projected that as the continent’s economies continue to prosper and more Africans find better-paying jobs in the cities, they will earn more money to spend on goods and services… and generate more waste. This is the same principle that led to the explosion of waste produced in China.  So, Ghana may be taking a giant step toward managing waste in a sustainable manner. The global community is realising the urgency of managing waste, with many of the Sustainable Development Goals supporting waste and water reuse, and environmental preservation.  Specifically, SDG 6 demands that countries provide clean water and sanitation for all.

Benefits of recycling

There are several benefits to recycling, which include reducing the use of natural resources; thus boosting the economy and saving energy. The volume of waste generated in Africa is expected to double in the coming years as economies become more prosperous amid population increases. A few smart entrepreneurs, like Dr. Joseph Siaw Agyapong, are already building wealth from waste and creating jobs for hundreds of Ghanaians. The success of this inspiring entrepreneur proves that there can be profitable business ideas in waste.

Apart from the success of Jospong Group of Companies in waste collection and processing, Cyclus – a local Ghanaian company – has partnered a waste management company in the Netherlands to build wealth from the huge volumes of plastic waste generated in Ghana. Located at Elmina, near Cape Coast, the company collects, processes and recycles waste from households, hotels, restaurants and industries. The final product is exported to manufacturers who use them to produce jeans, carpets, tennis-balls and other products for our markets as new products.

Indications are that there are several opportunities entrepreneurs can exploit in Africa’s large and growing waste market. Specifically, most of the waste collected from households, restaurants, bars and hotels, such as kitchen waste and leftover food, can be used to make organic and biodegradable fertiliser. Compost is considered a much cheaper alternative to common but expensive inorganic fertiliser. This makes compost more useful in hot and humid climates (like Africa’s), where the rate of decay is fast. This makes compost a great and widely popular organic fertiliser across the world. Ghana generates 7.5 million tonnes of waste annually, with 62 percent being organic waste that can be recycled into organic fertiliser.  Thus, Ghana’s focus on waste recycling should be pursued with all seriousness.

The most popular recyclable materials in high demand by manufacturers and industrial processors include paper, plastic, metal, rubber and textiles. Wastepaper (like newspapers, magazines, cardboard and old books) can be used to make paper-bags, cardboard and carton boxes for new electronic equipment. With many African cities banning the use of plastic and nylon bags, recycled paper is essential for producing biodegradable paper-bags used for shopping. Potential buyers of processed wastepaper are: pulp and paper mills, market vendors, paper dealers and middlemen.  Perhaps Ghana should follow the example of Rwanda in banning the use of plastic bags.

Menace of plastic waste

Plastic waste is arguably one of the most common forms of waste in Ghana.  Not only are plastic products a waste, but they have also become an environmental menace. Plastic continues to choke drains, waterways and rivers across the country. Recently, fishermen have complained of seeing plastic waste in the sea rather than fish. Through evolving technology, waste plastic such as plastic bottles, used plastic jars, containers and shopping bags can be melted and transformed into a range of new and reusable products. Potential buyers of processed plastic include plastic product manufacturers and industries.

Besides, rubber waste such as used tyres, old rubber shoes and other waste material made of rubber can be sold to industries that make shoes, sandals, mats and carpets. For instance, tyre-making factories and industries that use boilers, like cement makers, are also top buyers of rubber waste. In some contexts, waste textiles like old clothes are being recycled and used for the production of doormats, cushions, mattresses, children’s underwear, homemade caps and duster coats, stuffing for dolls and several other products. Textiles are also used in the production of high-quality paper.

While sorting and cleaning collected waste may require significant labour, processing these materials will require an investment in machines and processing equipment such as hoppers, extruders, aggregators and rollers. Therefore, the public-private partnership between government and Jospong companies will attract the right investments into recycling and compost plants to turn waste into useful products, while generating employment.

The number of entrepreneurs and businesses involved in Africa’s waste management is projected to increase rapidly in the future. As resources like wood become scarce and climate change remains a strong global challenge, Africans will need to reduce waste and recycle more. Waste is everywhere; it only requires a bit of creativity and hard work to create wealth out of it. This is an area in which policymakers must make interventions to attract the youth.

So, next time you throw something in the bin, take a second to think about what you are  throwing away and how your rubbish could have been used to make money in the supply of energy, food or water for Ghana.


 Dupré-Harbord, J. 2017.  The Power of Rubbish: Making Money from Waste

John-Paul Iwuoha.  2018. Recycling for Profit: 5 Ways to Turn Your Trash into Cash

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