Ghana: Environmentally friendly plastics now available

BY: Abdul-Karim Mohammed Awaf
Library photo

The Ministry of Environment, Science and Innovation (MESI) has reached an agreement with the Ghana Plastic Manufacturing Association to ensure that plastic materials produced in the country are made with “oxo-biodegradable” additives as a way to safeguard the environment.

The “oxo-biodegradable” additives ensure that plastic materials decompose easily without posing environmental challenges to the country.

This was disclosed to The Mirror by the Head of Public Affairs at MESI, Alhaji Zakari Musah, in Accra.

He, however, said the earlier directive that sought to place an outright ban on plastic materials which weigh 20 microns and below had been referred to a technical committee for consideration.

“There seems to be an inaccurate reportage on the ministry’s position. The ministry has agreed to allow plastic manufacturers to produce oxo-biodegradable plastic materials while the other aspect which seeks to ban plastic materials below 20 microns is under technical consideration,” he said.

Plastic manufacturers

Confirming the agreement to The Mirror, the national coordinator of the plastic manufacturing association, Mr Daniel Mensah Tornyigah, said the association began producing oxo-biodegradable plastic materials  from  November 1, this year, in line with  the agreement to ensure plastic materials became environmentally friendly.

“I want to place on record that there is no ban on plastic materials in Ghana because there is an alternative to plastic materials in Ghana as at now. The only change is that we have decided  to add oxo-biodegradable additives to all plastic materials,” he said.

Challenges

Mr Tornyigah admitted that his association faced so many challenges which made it difficult for it to comply with the government’s decision to ban plastic materials which weigh 20 microns and below.

He said currently, only one company imported oxo-biodegradable additives from which all the other companies bought their supplies.

This situation, he said, made the additives more expensive and, therefore, there was the need to allow more time for most of the companies to get the needed support to import oxo-biodegradable additives.

Mr Tornyigah  said early 2011, the ministry formed  a technical committee made up of only sachet water producers which agreed to ban plastic materials which weigh 20 microns and below.

That, he said, accounted  for the current challenges for its members, adding that sachet water producers used  microns above 20  and, therefore, they could not bargain on behalf of the association.

EPA regulation

The regulatory body for this directive, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is upbeat about its successful implementation  and says plans are far advanced    to ensure full compliance of the direction.

The Chief Programmes Officer of the (EPA), Mrs Angelina A. Tutuah Mensah, in an interview with The Mirror, said  the agency wrote letters to 18 plastic manufacturing companies currently operating in Ghana and asked them to furnish the agency with the type of products they produced.

She revealed that so far, seven companies had furnished the agency with the products they produced but expressed the hope that the remaining 11 companies would do same.

That information, Mrs Mensah explained, would help the agency to monitor and ensure that all the companies complied with the directive.

On plastic bags imported into the country, Mr Mensah said the agency had collaborated with the Custom Division to tighten the borders to ensure that no non-biodegradable plastic materials were passed through the country’s borders and would soon clamp down non-biodegradable plastic materials brought into the country through unapproved routes.

She said most plastic manufacturing companies were the same people engaged in the importation of plastic materials into the country and, therefore, was hopeful that the companies would comply with the directive.

She could not, however, disclose the punitive measures for companies who would default in the directive.

Ban

Ghana was recently rated the seventh dirtiest country in the world due to its poor sanitary conditions following a deadly flood in Accra attributed to poor and choked drainage system.

In a swift response, the Ministry of Environment, Innovation Science and Technology announced early this year that come November 1, there would be an outright ban on plastic materials which weigh 20 microns and below, as well as all non-biodegradable plastic materials.

These included light plastics used in packaging gari, koko, groundnut etc. The ministry, therefore, gave the plastic manufacturing companies 90 days to clear their stock.

At a conference in Lome in June this year, the representatives of seven West African states agreed that oxo-biodegradable plastic waste was essential to protect the region’s environment.

So far, 11 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East have already legislated to make ox-biodegradable plastic mandatory for a wide range of consumer products.