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Efforts to reduce plastic waste menace; can sellers collect their own waste?

BY: Dr Kwaku Yeboah Kese
library Photo
library Photo

The other day I visited a refuse dump to see if I could find the traditional beer (green) bottle or coke bottle. I did not find any intact or even broken.

This is because you cannot buy the drink without the empty bottle. If you are lucky, you will be asked to deposit some money or the drink will not be sold to you at all, unless you bring the corresponding quantity of empty bottles of the drink you are buying.

The main reason why we have empty plastic bottles and sachets all over the place is that we do not put any value on them and therefore one can afford to dispose of them anyhow.

One of the ways to reduce this environmental hazard, in the short term, is to quickly put a value on them at the point of purchase, thus making it difficult for anybody to dispose of them unrealistically.

What will happen when the policy of one empty sachet for one satchet water is introduced? What will happen when we put a charge on the empty water bottle, let’s say three Ghana cedis for those buying the small ( 500ml) bottled water without the empty plastic bottle, and one Ghana cedi for those buying same with empty bottle in hand? If this happens I am sure nobody will throw used water bottle away.

Indeed, within a few weeks of implementation it is very likely that no water bottle will be found at refuse dumps.

Under this new arrangement, sachet water sellers will be required to collect their own waste by demanding empty sachet from customers before selling to them.

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For instance the price of sachet water can remain the same at 20 pesewas (or slightly reduced) for customers who present the empty sachet but, let’s say, 30 pesewas for those buying without the empty sachet.

At the sachet water producing factory (where the enforcement will begin), sellers will be required to bring the same quantity of empty bags collected from customers in order to buy the same quantity of water at the normal price.

Those sellers who return to buy the sachet water without the empty bags can be made to pay some deposit against the unaccompanying empty bags or buy the water at a higher rate, for example, six Ghana cedis a bag, instead of the usual three Ghana cedis or so.

It must be emphasised that nobody can be forced to carry empty sachet or plastic water bottle in order to buy water but this will mean that you will buy the water at a slightly increased price.

A lot of rubber bags are also given at supermarkets, sometimes one carrier bag for each single item purchased all for free.

Although there may be a hidden charge for these carriers, it is time direct value is placed on them so that customers can decide if they want them or they will carry their own bags for shopping.

To discourage customers from taking rubber bags at shops and encourage individuals to carry their own carrier bags, the price for the carrier bags can be made moderately expensive.

Benefits

There is no doubt that when this arrangement is implemented, the volume of plastic waste in refuse dumps will reduce considerably.

It is also likely the prices of drink sold in plastic containers will reduce since the manufacturer eventually receives the waste which can be recycled or put into another profitable use.

The environmental pollution and the health hazards that these non-biodegradable plastic materials can cause are enormous and this calls for all and sundry to rise up and look for innovative ways to control the menace.

In the short term it is envisaged that this measure will help whilst looking for long term measures to solve the problem and ensure that the city becomes clean.

The writer is Medical Director, Royal Medical Agency and Clinic .Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.