While it is a known fact that Ghana is reeling from plastic waste, finding the best way to deal with the looming catastrophe is what has eluded the country for several years.
However, the country no longer has the luxury of time to deal with the problem, as the menace has escalated to scary proportions following the volumes of plastics produced and used, especially by the beverage industry.
It turns out that the Daily Graphic’s projection of about 70,000 PET (poly-ethy-lene tereph-thalate) bottles produced monthly from the 5,700 metric tonnes volume as disclosed by the President of th
e Ghana Plastic Manufacturers Association (GPMA), Mr Ebbo Botwe, was an underestimation.
The Tuesday, April 2 ,edition of the Daily Graphic, published an article titled “The plastic menace: Ghana faces catastrophe; 70,000 PET bottles produced monthly; GH¢1bn accrued sits unused”.
In that publication, Mr Botwe said, among other things, that about 70,000 PET bottles were produced monthly
But speaking to the Daily Graphic in a follow-up interview over the weekend, Mr Botwe said “In a year 560 trillion bottles are produced and 46 trillion bottles produced and used in a month, so then 70,000 bottles a month is nothing. It is a just a drop of water in the ocean.”
He said just one beverage company produced about 20,000 bottles a day and in a month 520,000 bottles, so the volumes of PET used was really high.
Need for legislative instrument
According to Mr Botwe, there was, therefore, an urgent need for the government to come up with a legislative instrument to regulate the use and management of plastics in the country as was already pertaining in three African countries.
“We need the government to set up an LI to compel bottling companies in Ghana to at least use 30 per cent of recyclable material in their production.
“We have one or two companies which are members of GPMA that are willing. We are sending a business proposal to the government on Tuesday for consideration to set up a recycling plant.
We will re-use all the used bottles. It will come back as a bottle in food grade.
That is the only way we can sustain management of this plastic menace.
“Nigeria, Cameroun and South Africa have laws backing recycling and so major companies like Coca Cola employ at least 30 per cent of recycled bottles in their production lines.
What happens is that when you recycle you really gain nothing because of cost,” he said.
High recycling cost
“When the cost of recycling is high the recycled material is oftentimes more expensive than the virgin material, which is why most companies are reluctant to use the recycled items, he said.
So, unless there is a law to compel bottling companies to employ 30 per cent recycled material on their bottling line, recycling will lead to loss.
Again, somehow the government has to come in with a subsidy,” Mr Botwe said.
He said the GPMA was planning to petition the government in the coming weeks to set up a National Environmental Fund Authority to manage the approximately GH₵1 billion that has accrued from the 10 per cent Environmental Excise Tax (EET) paid on plastic products over the years.
“We don’t see why we should be in this mess.
We could have been even ahead or matching some of the European countries that are doing better in managing plastic waste, because we have money the purpose.
It is our own money – not the government’s contribution – and we want to have a press conference to bring to light goings-on in the industry,” he said.
He said at the press conference that was expected to be held soon, the GPMA would produce statistics of the waste generated - both flexible and rigid plastics, including PET, interventions that have been put in place and what else there was to be done and the inherent challenges.