How do we rid ourselves of the plastic menace?

BY: Daily Graphic

With effect from November 1, a government imposed ban on the manufacture and use of plastic below the 20 microns gauge will begin.

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However, the Ghana Plastic Manufacturers Association (GPMA) has petitioned the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovations (MESTI) to reconsider the ban on light plastic materials with less than 20 microns on the set date.

The reason for the petition, according to the GPMA, was that it envisaged that the ban would deny most Ghanaians the opportunity of using a cheaper way of packaging their items.

Another concern of the plastic manufacturers is that a ban will affect the packaging of food items such as gari, sugar, groundnut and others.

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We believe, though, that there could be other cheaper packaging materials such as paper if only we popularise their usage.

The GPMA also argues that the production of light plastic below 20 microns is not possible, while, in its view, a ban is no longer important if manufacturers are going to add Oxo-biodegradable materials to their products to ensure that they decompose after some time.

For us at the Daily Graphic, however, in spite of the banter between the government and the plastic producers, one thing remains clear — the fact that the country is overwhelmed by the plastic waste menace.

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In view of the fact that the initiative by the government forms part of measures aimed at addressing the sanitation challenges facing the country, we believe that the conversation must rather focus on how we can rid the country of the plastic menace and not so much on the ban.

Most drainage systems have been choked by non-degradable plastic and other materials and this has contributed to perennial floods in Accra and other cities in the country.

And most residents around the Odaw River saw the mess created by plastic bottles and bags after yesterday’s rain.

There is certainly a case for action to stop the plastic waste nuisance.

While we believe that Ghana has a peculiar situation with regard to the use of plastic, if a country such as Rwanda has completely banned the use of plastic and that has not killed commerce, Ghana could also come up with interventions that will aim at primarily salvaging the country from its sanitation mess.

The globally accepted standard for producing plastic is 30 microns and not the 20 microns that has been agreed by the government. Meanwhile, the use of biodegradable materials, as suggested, is another compromise worth exploring and we must ensure that these suggestions work, instead of pleading against the November 1 ban.

Our concern must also be focused on preventing the illegal importation of plastic materials with non-biodegradable additives and of less than 20 microns into the country through unapproved routes.