“Refuse what you do not need; reduce what you do need; reuse what you consume; recycle what you cannot refuse, and rot (compost) the rest,” a popular quote by Bea Johnson, says it all when it comes to proper waste management.
However, our waste management situation has not been shaped along the standard quoted above. Consequently, our cities, towns and communities have been reeling under perennial floods and other ills suggestive of a poorly integrated waste management system.
Drains are often clogged with silt; our landscapes have been inundated with plastics instead of being ornamented with lush plants such as grasses, shrubs and trees.
One of the victims of a recent flood at Kaneshie, had to struggle all night to save her family’s belongings to no avail. From mattresses, clothing, electrical and electronic equipment, her family had to keep wake and watch flood waters rise over a meter in their home.
“The flood waters were up to my breast line. We stood in the waters all night because there was nowhere else to go. Seeing all my things get destroyed broke my heart. It took the grace of God that the kids were not swept away by the flood waters. We were swimming with the ‘borla’. Because people throw rubbish into gutters and it chokes them. Why are we doing this to ourselves?” she said.
Poor waste management
An obvious consequence of our poor waste management system is unsightliness of the environment. This can reduce our tourism potential and value of properties in many parts of the country.
The incidence of faeco-oral diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, typhoid, etc. is directly linked to poor waste management. Resources used in managing these diseases could be diverted to needful expenses.
We all have different perceptions of what it takes to maintain a proper waste management lifestyle. Often, we believe in keeping our individual homes and surroundings clean but when it comes to the communities we live in, that responsibility is relegated to waste agencies.
It is often said that together we can do much and my belief is that we can turn the situation around. For instance, cleanliness and COVID-19 can now be said to be siblings. Why? The pandemic forced us to adopt a lot of clean and healthy lifestyles, be it at homes, offices, schools, hospitals, churches and other places.
We are now more conscious about washing of hands, food hygiene, food packaging and handling, how to dispose waste into bins with lids, among other sanitation tips.
However, it should not have taken a pandemic to teach us these things and certainly, the fact that Kaneshie and other many areas keep drowning in waste is a testament that more still needs to be done to change our waste management attitudes and behaviour for a cleaner, greener, and healthier environment.
Well, one of the key questions being asked, and the most fundamental one for that matter, is “what can we do to stop this plastic menace?”
To curb this and eradicate it, just #StopTheTrash. Certainly, there is a need for paradigm shift in our approach to waste management.
There is no doubt that when it comes to efforts at curbing environmental degradation in Ghana, there is always one name that pops up. With the waste management solutions, it provides and numerous awards received, Zoomlion is Ghana’s foremost waste management business whose mission is to improve people’s lives and their environment.
#StopTheTrash is an initiative that Zoomlion has embarked upon as one way to curb the devastating floods within the country and their adverse effects on the environment.
The initiative’s goal is to enable a cleaner Ghana and inspire the public to embrace proper waste management lifestyles.
#StopTheTrash is riding under the larger 1Million Bins Campaign agenda to distribute 1 million free bins across the country so we can play our role in ensuring that Ghana can live up to the 6Rs of zero waste living.
All we need to do as patriotic citizens is to REDUCE, REUSE, REPAIR, ROT and RECYCLE our trash. We are adding the 6th “R” which is REFUSE. These are the six ‘R’s of refusing to be a part of the trash problem that is facing us and truly having a zero-waste living attitude.
What then do the 6Rs stand for?
Reduce what you need; reducing harmful, wasteful and non-recyclable materials to save you money and help the environment. For example, when printing a document, print double-sided to slash your waste output in half or say ‘no’ to a plastic shopping bag when you only have a couple of items.
Reuse what you can; reusing the things we have already for other purposes to fulfil a new need is key. This means we save money and resources that we would have used to buy a new product. For example, give unwanted toys and books to hospitals or schools, put unwanted clothes in used clothing bins or use plastic containers for freezing or storing food items.
Repair what you have broken down; fix all broken down items that can be used and save the money for replacement. That money can be used to solve other critical needs.
Rot whatever is left; this basically is composting organic materials like food wastes.
Recycle only what you can't eliminate through refusing, reducing, or reusing; If you can’t refuse, reduce or reuse a particular item, try re-purposing it instead. The ‘green’ community often refers to this method as ‘up-cycling’. Up-cycling can be practiced with items that have outlived their usefulness. For example, turning car tires into tables and chairs and using old cartoons for wall clocks.
Refuse what you don’t need; don’t take plastic bags when you go shopping when you carry a reusable bag. Don’t take anything home just to be discarded a few days when you get home.
It’s easy to throw trash around without fully knowing what happens or the process it goes through to chock gutters or cause many illnesses or even cause floods.
Be a partaker
#StopTheTrash under the 1Million Bins Campaign by Zoomlion gives us all an opportunity to become partakers in curbing the waste menace in Ghana and adopt proper waste disposal attitudes.
At this point, all we need to do is to #StopTheTrash.
The writer is the Chief Operations Officer for the Environment and Sanitation Group of the Jospong Group of Companies.