Statistics indicate that annually, 430 million tons of plastics are produced globally which has a socioeconomic cost between 400 and 600 million dollars.
In Ghana, 1.1 million tons of plastics are produced per year with two-thirds ending up as waste. These plastic products come in the form of polythene bags, water bottles, packets, sachets etc. and is now a common sight to see them littering our streets, beaches and drains and sewage.
The examples given above of these plastic products of small packaging formats that block drains are generally blamed for the perennial flooding problem in some parts of the country, including Takoradi experiences during the rainy season.
The world is now facing a crisis as a result of plastic pollution. The rate at which plastic waste is taking over the environment is gradually becoming a threat to survival.
Studies have shown that over 50% of plastics produced domestically are used once. After the usage, it is disposed of anyhow getting back to the environment.
Some of this plastic waste finds its way into the ocean and the soil becoming toxic to the ecosystem.
Speaking in an interview, lecturer and researcher from the University of Mines and Technology, Department of Environment and Safety, Dr Eric Gyimah made it known that the pressing issue as far as the environment and its related research are concerned is microplastic pollution.
He said, “When the microplastics get into the aquatic ecosystem then the fate is that some of these plastics get into the fishes and build in the muscles because these plastics are mostly organic pollutants which build around where fats”.
He went on to say that most of these fishes which have harboured plastic waste in them end up on the market for humans to consume.
“When these fishes get into the body, they can not be digested and they begin to build in other organs of the human being. So the whole process starts from here, gets into the ocean and comes back to us. It doesn’t end here”, Dr Gyimah emphasized.
Dr Eric Gyimah suggested that the members of the general public desist from one-time usage of plastic products because it has negative implications on health and the environment.
Dr Gyimah added that burning plastics is not the best route to dispose of them because “the process through which plastics are manufactured to the end uses is all problematic. So those of us who are using them and think that we will not discard them because it is said that it’s a bad practice but we will rather burn them are off the mark. When you burn them, you are emitting certain chemicals like carbon dioxide and butane into the atmosphere. And these gases are greenhouse gases which cause global warming.”
He further made it known that the ideal way of getting rid of plastic could have been recycling and reusing but the cost involved is expensive. “Recycling of plastics is good and always the best option to reduce plastic waste in our environment and the best option for plastic management but it comes with a huge cost”, Dr Gyimah added.
He, therefore recommended that paper bags be used in replacement of plastic products for food packaging and other domestic use.
In conclusion, Dr. Gyimah said, “We need plastics. We can never say we don’t need it to do things at home but what we are saying is that we should be mindful of the one-time usage of plastics. Those are the ones we should find sustainable ways of replacing and I highly recommend the alternative like paper bags”,
As a follow-up on the issue of plastic waste and its negative impact on the environment, we visited a small recycling plastic waste business, Asa Nwura Company Limited at Effiakuma, a suburb of Takoradi.
Asa Nwura, which literally means “dustpan “ in English focuses on recycling plastics and organic waste into organic manure for farmers.
In an interview, the commercial manager of the company, Mr. Steven Joy Turkson made it known that recycling is one significant practice that must be encouraged. He stated that, since his outfit started the recycling project, it has seen a great impact on the community. “We started operations in late 2019 getting to 2020 and we started with Effiakuma. We organized a community buyback event where we called many people in the community to bring their waste and when they came, we scaled and paid for it. So within that week, people even went around gathering plastics with the notion that they will bring it and have money for the waste they have been able to collect. The impact was very clear because children and all were going around picking plastics. When we do that the community will be clean”, he said.
Mr Turskon further reiterated that plastic waste is affecting the community. He said that “talk of just the environmental cleanliness it is very bad. For example the market it’s an eyesore. Sometimes you see heaps of waste that have been gathered. Meanwhile, we are selling food there and all these things are not helping. When animals are feeding on these wastes and also feed on the things we sell, it has a negative impact on our health”.
He made a call to the general public to carefully manage their plastic waste. He said that instead of disposing of them anyhow, they should collect them and call, Asa Nwura, to come and pick them up when they have gathered enough quantity of it.
Even though the company is making a great impact in the community, they are facing a lot of challenges with the lack of vehicles, machinery, wider space for operations and other equipment.
Mr Turkson explained that “machinery, because the plastic waste that comes in we don’t take it to the landfill site. We crash them, we make sure we wash them and we supply to producers of buckets for them to recycle them and make new products back to us, we could do a lot with more machinery too.”
He used the opportunity to call for support because according to him, “our doors are open to investors and people who would want to collaborate with us. We also had an initial engagement with hotels, restaurants and banks. We are still urging them to come for us to properly manage their waste for them”, Mr Turkson added.
Story by: Rosaline Djan