As a nation, it is important to accept that for one reason or the other the management of plastic wastes in the country has not been the best and therefore calls for concern by all to come on board and find a lasting solution to the
problem since its negative effects such as cholera, malaria among others have no respect for no one.
According to health officials, the 2014 cholera outbreak in Ghana hit a record 17,000 cases with 150 deaths. The last time Ghana suffered such a staggering number of cholera cases was in 1982. Signs of a cholera outbreak were on the wall after heavy rains exposed the filth that had engulfed the capital. Foul smell emanating from dirt and piles of garbage filled the air while liquid waste seeped into market stalls and homes.
Also, in January 2013, the Ghana Health Service declared a cholera outbreak in the Ashanti Region. 18 people died and 310 cases were registered in the region. The majority of infected persons were women and children. In view of this, the Ghana Health Service warned of a possible cholera outbreak in Accra due to the insanitary conditions in the capital coupled with the onset of the rains.
As a result of the poor management of plastic wastes, many have raised concerns about the situation. In a wakeup call, H.E. the President, John Dramani Mahama, recently addressing members of the El-Wak Keep Fit Club in Accra, warned that Ghana might have to go the ‘Rwanda way’ by banning the use of plastics if producers fail to properly manage plastic waste.
He said “It has become such a pernicious pollutant. If producers of plastics don’t do something about it, then we may have to go the Rwanda way. In Rwanda, plastics are banned; nobody uses plastics and yet they are surviving.”
It is important to note that the plastic waste is indeed worrisome and thus calls for concerted efforts to deal with the situation. It is said that hard times never last but tough people do. In the same vein, the challenges Ghana is confronted with today, will not last but taking tough decisions will ensure a clean and sound environment as we all yearn for a clean mother Ghana.
Going forward, the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), has noted with great concern that since the introduction of plastic products in the late 1990s, the management of plastic waste has been be-devilled with a number of challenges including the use of poor technology, inadequate governance and the negative attitude of people in its use and disposal thereof.
Following discussions with stakeholders at MESTI, an agreement has been reached that the Ministry should implement the recommendations of the report of a Committee commissioned in 2010 to advise on the modalities of bringing the plastic menace under control. This is to safeguard and improve upon environmental cleanliness in the country. Interestingly, the ‘Report of the Committee on Proposed Banning of Plastics in Ghana 2010’ came out with good proposals on how best to manage plastics in the country.
It is for this reason that MESTI and the stakeholders have agreed and prescribed that from 1st of November 2015 all flexible plastics produced in the country should have bio-degradable additive added to them to make them bio-degradable for easy management and that all stocks of flexible plastics would have to be cleared from the market in three months effective from 1st August 2015 to 31st October 2015.
According to the directives, all flexible plastics below 20 microns produced in the country and imported including those used for water sachets and carrier bags of the said microns would not be allowed in the country from the 1st of November 2015.
In addition, all flexible plastic products should be labeled with the manufacturers’ name, logo, date and location of the company for easy identification where necessary.
One may ask whether that is all there is on ending the plastic waste menace and the answer is certainly no. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been directed to enforce the relevant provisions of the EPA Act 1994(490) and Environmental Protection Assessment Regulations 1999, LI 1652 to ensure that the directives are complied with to bring sanity to the environment.
The Ministry wishes to assure the public that further discussions with stakeholders are on going to ensure introduction of re-usable friendly plastics, increase recycling, institute the culture of waste separation and segregation and institute other incentives that will encourage plastic buy-back at shopping malls and other places and public awareness campaigns to change the attitude of the people to the handling of plastic and other wastes.
It is also worth noting that the ministry will work timelessly to ensure that the current plastic waste situation is brought under control to create a healthy and clean Ghana. I urge all Ghanaians to hail the effort of the ministry and join hands to create the desirable environment we want.
In the light of this, the roadmap set out by MESTI and stakeholders to curb plastic wastes in the country ought to be taken note of and complied with by all. It is expected that the new measures may not go down well with some of the recipients but with continuous efforts it will become acceptable.
Above all, let us consider the enormous benefits that would come out of the directives when we sacrifice and comply for a good cause that would benefit mother Ghana in the long ran.