Ready or not: plastics recycling 2.0 in Ghana
Ghana generates around 1.7 billion tonnes of plastic scrap annually. ‘The volume grows every year. Plastics already represent over 16% of our total waste stream,’ says recycling advocate Daniel Yaw Mensah Tornyigah.
Citizens living in Ghana’s capital, Accra, face upwards of 1600 tonnes of plastic waste daily. Only a fraction of this is recycled. ‘Our recycling rate for plastics was stuck at 1% for many years. Recently, it has picked up the pace. It’s now a little over 6%,’ says Tornyigah. For other African countries, he says Ghana – which has a population of 28.8 million people – is ‘the one to watch’.
‘Our economy is experiencing strong growth – up 6.8% in 2018. We’re definitely moving in the right direction,’ he adds. Tornyigah works for the country’s Federation of Plastic Manufacturers Recyclers and Users (FePMRUG). This group is collaborating with national policymakers as well as global entrepreneurs to scale-up plastics recycling across Ghana.
A forgotten fund
Tornyigah admits this isn’t an easy mission. ‘Largely because legislators don’t prioritise recycling. They easily get distracted by other “more pressing” concerns.’ Therefore, recycling is driven almost entirely by a string of small and medium recycling companies.
Getting financial support from the government could make all the difference in the world, Tornyigah argues. He recalls that, back in 2011, a special recycling fund was set up. ‘That sounds promising, right? The idea was to finance the recycling sector via taxes, specifically an Environmental Excise Tax of 10% on plastic waste,’ Tornyigah explains. So far, the fund is thought to contain as much as US$ 163 million. ‘But not one cent has yet been made available to recyclers – the money is just sitting in the bank,’ he points out.
Real change coming?
After years of waiting to get answers, Environment Minister Professor Kwabena Frimpong Boateng addressed the issue last month. He announced that a new fund has been created at the Bank of Ghana; it is powered by recycling fees paid by plastic importers and manufacturers. The exact fee is yet to be disclosed.
Tornyigah is eager to hear the details and witness ‘real change’. He says: ‘I hope that, after the government has made the necessary amendments, recyclers will finally be able to access this fund so that we can see a boost in recycling envisaged a long time ago.’