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Reducing plastic waste, collective responsibility

BY: Daily Graphic
File photo
File photo

Since 2018, the government has been working on a plastic waste programme that aims to clean up the environment, create jobs in the plastic value chain, make resources available to manage plastic usage and ensure no one is left behind.

Plastic waste management has become one of the biggest and complex challenges of this century and requires innovative and integrated solutions to reduce additional cost to conventional development.

Indeed, plastic pollution is a major environmental concern due to the severe threats it poses to the terrestrial and marine ecosystems.

According to the UNDP, Ghana produces 1.7 million tonnes of plastic waste annually with only two per cent being recycled, implying that most of the plastic waste generated ends up in the environment.

In fact, the threat posed by plastic bags to the environment, notably to land and marine life, puts the next generation at risk, making the international plastic day extremely important.

The International Plastic Bag Free Day was created by Bag Free World as a worldwide initiative to get rid of single-use plastic bags around the world.

It is all about promoting environmental conservation by encouraging all of us to stay away from the use of plastic bags and instead look for more eco-friendly alternatives.

If we can do it on International Plastic Free Day, we can do it for the rest of the year.

The day is also important in terms of increasing awareness of the dangers and the harm that is associated with plastic bags in terms of the impact they have on marine life, animal life and nature.

As the world moves to ban various plastics for harming aquatic life, causing air pollution and a surge in respiratory diseases, Ghana has been at the forefront of effecting the bans with legislation, tough fines and imprisonment of culprits.

But Ghana - with a five per cent recycling rate - has also emerged as a regional frontrunner committed to creating a domestic recycling industry that protects both the environment and its impoverished, mostly-female, community of waste pickers.

The hazards plastic poses are numerous and multidimensional and the impacts may transcend national borders.

A considerable number of these challenges for achieving sustainable plastic management have been identified, ranging from poor public attitudes, low resource mobilisation for effective solutions, incomprehensive waste collection services, inadequate recycling facilities and technical know-how, to the lack of clear accountability as the challenges associated with plastic use are cross-cutting.

While the Daily Graphic agrees that the casual disposal of plastic materials and the resultant adverse effect on the environment call for diverse and drastic measures to stem the tide, we believe that many other measures can be taken to solve the problem.

It is a fact that the ban on plastic use in countries such as Rwanda and, lately, Kenya has produced tremendous results, but we believe a lot more can be achieved with education on the use of plastics.

There is the need to segregate waste to ensure that plastic is treated separately from other waste materials. It is a fact that plastic can be recycled and put to other uses, while recycling can create employment for some unemployed youth in the country.

The few industries involved in plastic recycling in the country, however, complain about the high cost of recycling due to the nature of waste disposal, which makes the cost of inputs higher than is normally expected.

We, therefore, urge stakeholders such as the Ministry of Environment, the Environmental Service Providers Association of Ghana, firms that recycle plastic and others, to team up and offer the needed education on the separation of plastic from other wastes, so that we can recycle a greater amount of plastic, which will create more income and employment and make any contemplation of a ban unnecessary.