Tackling plastic waste: Let’s make GAEC dream reality

BY: Daily Graphic
Tackling plastic waste: Let’s make GAEC dream reality
Tackling plastic waste: Let’s make GAEC dream reality

We find ourselves in a quagmire when it comes to the use of plastics. This is because although plastics serve very useful purposes, managing the waste that comes from their use has become a huge challenge for the country.

Attempts at recycling plastics to turn them into other useful products have been very ineffective due to the high cost involved, while the lack of an effective collection system for plastic waste has not helped matters.

Currently, waste is lumped together at generation points, and households and organisations that try to separate their waste find that their efforts are in vain because waste management companies are not well-resourced enough to send different trucks to pick up the different categories of waste.

Once the waste gets to their final destination or even the treatment plants, sorting becomes a challenge and comes with great cost, as manual sorting is the only choice available.

There have been several calls by individuals and organisations for Ghana to ban the use of plastics for packaging, as has been done in other jurisdictions, because of the nuisance waste generated from them is causing the country.

The recurrent floods experienced in Accra and other cities have been blamed on plastic waste, which clogs our drains and ends in the sea and our beaches because of the improper way in which it is disposed of.

These and many issues surrounding plastics usage have sent the country on a wild goose chase for the right way to handle plastic waste, which is getting worse by the day.

As citizens and experts in plastics continue to debate the issue, sometimes ferociously, of plastic packaging, especially in the food and beverages industry, and whether we have to ban outright plastics or not, because of the employment the plastic industry offers many Ghanaians, perhaps we have to turn to nuclear technology for that lasting solution we seek.

The Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) recently said it was ready to partner operators in the waste management industry with the requisite expertise to venture into the Nuclear Technology for Plastic Pollution Control (NUTEC Plastics) to help the country to effectively deal with the plastic waste menace.

Speaking at a stakeholders’ meeting on the NUTEC Plastics programme in Accra, the Director-General of GAEC, Professor Samuel B. Dampare, said nuclear technology for plastic recycling was a new area which the country could explore to protect the environment and create employment for the youth.

The Daily Graphic urges players in the plastics and the waste management sectors to partner GAEC, which is collaborating with the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation to complement the country’s attempt at recycling plastics with the radiation technology, so we could reap some benefits from what we now consider as plastic waste.

According to GAEC, the radiation method could, for instance, make it easier to use the waste for pavement blocks and other construction materials.

This is why we support the call for assistance for an electron bean facility which will require about $10 million to put up.

Conservative estimates say that currently, the country generates over one million tonnes of plastic waste annually, out of which 52,000 tonnes, representing five per cent, is produced domestically.

Certainly, we cannot allow all this to go waste, or worse, continue to pollute our environment. We must continue to find a solution to the plastic waste menace, which is threatening the country’s ecology and our existence as a people.