The usage of single-use plastics in Ghana from sachet water to black polythene bags, etc. is a worrying situation considering it’s impact on the environment. There remains a lack of political will by regulatory and state agencies to ban the importation, production, and consumption of single-use plastics. While many other African countries have adopted punitive legislative anti-plastic bans targeting the importation, production, and consumption of single use plastics, Ghana has been slow in adopting regulatory mechanisms to tackle plastics.
Despite the challenges faced with single-use plastics on the African continent, Africa compared to the rest of the world, is seemingly doing a great job at reducing plastic waste. Out of 54 states in Africa, 34 have either passed a law banning plastics and implemented it or have passed a law with the intention of implementation. Of those, 16 have totally banned plastic bags or have done so partially without yet introducing regulations to enforce the bans. Countries like Eritrea, Benin, Tanzania, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, Senegal, Mali, Madagascar, Tunisia, Malawi, Mauritania, The Gambia, Kenya, Mauritius, DR Congo, Seychelles, Burkina Faso, Botswana, Zambia, South Africa, Gabon, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Morocco, Niger, Congo-Brazzaville, Togo, Zimbabwe, Guinea-Bissau, and Burundi remain the African countries who have taken a strong stance against the production, consumption, and importation of single-use plastic with Ghana no where in the list (Greenpeace Africa, 2020).
However, despite the government of Ghana having no regulation to ban outrightly the importation, production and consumption of single-use plastic, it has taken steps to manage plastic waste through the National Plastics Management Policy by the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI) focused on creating a circular economy-based management policy to plastics by focusing on the creation of economic opportunities for reusing plastic waste, encouraging recycling, recovery and re-manufacture of plastics and creating a system to reduce, recover and reuse plastics while eliminating single use plastics while sensitizing the public on the need for behavioral change in plastic management (UNEP).
In beating plastic pollution, there must be political will in banning the importation, consumption, and production of single-use plastic as have been successfully done by other African countries where plastic waste has significantly reduced.
Also, government must continue to create a conducive environment for recycling plants to increase the percentage of plastic waste that are recycled as according to the World Economic Forum (2022), Ghana recycles approximately 9.5% of the plastic waste that is collected despite generating about 840,000 tonnes of plastic waste yearly.
MESTI in partnership with the Metropolitan Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) must enforce the waste segregation at homes and also in the offices which is essential in the reuse and recycling plastic waste.
Also, the government as well as other international organizations should make investments in waste-to-energy plants.
There must also be inclusive approach to plastic waste management by working hand in hand with all stakeholders including the religious bodies, traditional authorities, informal sector unions, CSOs into environmental sustainability and etc. to propose indigenous solutions, increase public sensitization, as well as stir up interest in the general public in managing plastic waste.
These coupled with other international obligations Ghana is bound to can go a long way to reduce plastic waste and ensure environmental sustainability in such a time where climate change mitigation efforts are essential to the protection of the environment.
The Institute for Development-Ghana is an NGO focused on climate activism, youth leadership development and advocacy on gender equality and quality education. You can find more on www.iidghana.org