– By Researchlime Ltd

An Overview of Plastics Waste Sector in Ghana by recent studies

Most products in Ghana and surrounding African countries are now packaged in polyethylene films, which form about 70% of the plastic waste in the municipal waste stream. In 2016, worldwide nations produced 335 million metric tons of plastic [17]. The world plastic production went to 348 million tons in 2017 and 359 million metric tons in 2018, with China producing 29.4% of it compared with entire Europe (18.5%) and that of Africa’s (7.1%) in 2017 [18,19]. Most of the plastics are made up of PE, polypropylene (PP), polystyrene (PS), and PVC, which can be used because of their chemical properties and density in different forms, such as bottles, sachets [17,20], and thus commonly found in the rivers and marine environment [21,22].

 According to (Fobil, 2000), the plastic materials in commerce across the sub-region include low-density polyethylene (LDPE) commonly called polyethylene films, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and other plastics such as polypropylene, polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The analysis of the historical trend of plastic waste composition in the waste stream in Ghana shows that in 1979 the percentage by component was 1.4% and by 1993 it had risen to 4% (Schweizer and Annoh, 1996). In 1996/97, the proportion of plastic waste in the waste stream was 5% (Schweizer & Annoh, 1996; Archer et al., 1997) and by 1999/2000 its proportion increased to 8% (Fobil, 2000). This was a consequence of huge profits from the sale of plastics and the existing large domestic market, propelling private enterprises to begin to commit huge capital into plastic industry, and, by 1996, there were about 20 plastic producing establishments in Ghana. This included those of plastic films, with notable ones such as Poly Products, Poly Tank and Sintex (Agyenim-Boateng et al., 1998). By the turn of this century, it was reported that there were about 40 plastic manufacturing companies producing about 26,000 metric tons of assorted plastic products annually in Ghana, with 90% of the companies in the Kumasi and Accra-Tema Metropolitan Areas. Additionally, over 10,000 metric tons of finished plastic products are imported annually into Ghana (Fobil, 2001).

In Ghana’s case, plastic waste generated varies from one municipality to another or one district to another. The exponential growth of population and migration of people to Urban Sci. 2021, 5, 12 3 of 11 urban centers because of industrialization leads to high consumption of plastics. These plastics are indiscriminately discarded after use. A study conducted by Ampofo in 2013 [20] for the Center for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSRI) indicates that Ghana can release an average of GHC 1.2 million (EUR 206,896) monthly if the plastic waste generated is recycled systematically [20].

In 2016, Ghana imported over 10,000 metric tons of plastics, while the local companies in Accra manufactured or recycled an average of 38,927.57 metric tons of sorted plastics annually [37]. There has been an increase in plastics production companies and high annual importation of the plastics into Ghana due to the higher demand for packaging of products sold into the market and fewer recycling companies exist to add value to the used or unwanted plastics.

Plastic Production and expected growth

Reliable and recent data on waste generation in Ghana is scarce. In December 2015, Kodwo Miezah et al. of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi published the results of a practical study into the quantities and composition of household waste for different types of regions in Ghana. For the whole of Ghana, the group came up with a figure of 0.47 kgs/pppd. This seems low. On the other hand, a national figure of 1 kgs/pppd is reported pretty consistently but it is doubted whether this figure is more than a convenient estimation. For the purpose of this study, an average of 0.75 kgs/pppd is assumed, a figure which can be used for back-of-the-envelope calculations but should not be quoted. With a population of 30 million, this would put the waste output in Ghana at 22,500 tons per day. The Accra-Tema corridor is a relatively dynamic and affluent area where a waste output of 1 kgs/pppd may actually be a proper estimation. With an estimated population of 2.7 million the waste output here is 2,700 tons per day.

According to Pwamang [38], Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency, about 2.58 million metric tons of raw plastics are imported into Ghana annually, and 73% effectively ends up as waste [38]. It is estimated that about 270 tons of plastics are produced in Ghana [39], and 320 tons of plastic waste are also recycled in Ghana per day [40].

A survey conducted in 2010 by Oteng-Ababio [31] and metropolitan waste management departments of Takoradi in Ghana indicated that 30% of 268 tons of waste generated in the Secondi-Takoradi metropolis is comprised of plastics [31,32]. The study further reported that Accra metropolis generated 2000 tons of waste, and Kumasi metropolis generated 1200 tons of waste (dially), but only 60% and 65% of the corresponding wastes generated were collected in Accra Metropolitan Authority and Kumasi Metropolitan Authority [32].

In 2015, a study by Miezah [33] also indicated that 14% of plastic waste is collected from the households in Ghana. Most plastics are disposed of at landfills, incinerated, and burnt by individuals at any open space within communities [31,32,34], which is not acceptable.

Statistics released by the KMA Waste Management Department and other waste management bodies indicate that about 16.5% of waste which is generated daily, are plastic related (KMA, 2010). In Ghana, drinking water comes in plastic bags and bottles.

KMA Waste Management Department (2010)

Accra, the capital city of Ghana has a population of about 2.9 million people (2010 census). As one of the fastest growing cities in Africa, urbanization and changes in material consumption and lifestyle have led to the daily generation of about 2,000 tonnes of municipal waste (Annepu & Themelis, 2013). This implies that about 730,000 tonnes of municipal waste is generated each year, yet the waste collection and management system is not well structured to effectively dispose of the waste that is produced.

A report by the Millennium Cities Initiative on the findings of the waste composition for the Aryee Diki electoral area in Accra New Town shown in Figure 2 below presents that organic material accounted for 67% of solid waste, plastics was 20%, textiles was 5%, paper was 4% and metals and glass 2% (Alhassana, Gabbayb, Melara Arguellob & Boakye-Boaten, n.d.)

Composition of waste in Aryee Diki electoral area in Accra New Town (Millennium Cities Initiative, n.d.)

Plastic Production Regulation

A 2012 statistics from the Association of Sachet water Producers revealed that there are 895 plastic manufacturing companies and sachet water manufacturers in the country, producing about 26,000 metric tonnes of assorted plastic products annually, with 90 per cent of the companies in the Accra, Tema and the Kumasi metropolises.

There are no legal and policy framework regulating the production and use of plastic bags in Ghana despite the fact that it continues to cause environmental degradation.

The general guidelines concerning the management of plastic waste in Ghana are embodied in the Local Government Act of 1994 (Act 462) and the Environmental Sanitation Policy (ESP) of 1999, revised in 2008. While regulatory authority is vested in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), general solid waste management in Ghana is the responsibility of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, which supervises the decentralized Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs). The MMDAs are responsible for the collection and final disposal of plastic waste through their Waste Management Departments (WMDs) and their Environmental Health and Sanitation Units. The EPA Act 490 was the enabling legislation and, with regard to plastic waste management, it enables the Minister in charge of Environment to make regulations concerning the type, quality or conditions or concentration of substances that may be released into the environment; and the collection, storage, recovery, recycling or disposal of substances which may be hazardous to the environment.

Challenges faced by plastic recycling companies

Supply of materials. Findings from the research showed that supply of plastic waste is not a major challenge encountered by plastic recycling companies when carrying out their processes. The companies stated that there is enough plastic waste available for the different recycling companies hence, the supply of materials is currently not a challenge. However, in some instances individual collectors seem to demand more monetary incentives in order to continue providing the companies with plastic waste.

Technology. It was gathered from the companies that an initial capital ranging from $15,000 to $30,000 is needed to start a plastic recycling company. The price variations are based on the level of quality and capacity that is required. The challenges that some of the companies face are the maintenance of machines due to power fluctuations and the low availability of specialized labour to operate the machine within the plant.

Government. The companies disclosed that currently they do not receive support of any form, from the government. In terms of legislation, there is no law that mandates citizens to recycle their plastic. Although there is a law that states that companies should ensure that their waste is well disposed of, this law is not enforced. As such, not all companies abide by this law and yet they are not being sanctioned for this. Aside governmental support, there is no unified body, or organization/association for recycling companies. Due to this, they do not have a unified voice with which to communicate any concerns that they might want the government to know.

Plastic waste Collection in Ghana

According to Mr. Anthony Mensah, Director of Sanitation of the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources, nowadays 80% of waste services in the 254 Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) of Ghana are provided by the private sector. The impression is that the shift towards the private sector has effectively improved waste collection services in the major cities in Ghana.

NUMBER OF PLASTICS RECYCLING PLANTS IN GHANA, MAY 2019 As shown in Table 1, the 25 recycling companies process about 320 tons of plastic waste per day, mostly pure water sachet waste (even imports from Burkina Faso, Mali and Togo) and other flexible plastic waste from the streets. The value is Ghc 256,000 or EUR 44,100. In a month, the recycling companies pay at least Ghc 6.7 million (EUR 1.15 million) to plastic waste collectors.

Household Level

The first level of plastic waste collection and sorting is done at the households. At this level, plastic materials are considered valuable and are therefore usually sorted out for reuse. Thus, the materials are used several times before they lose their utility value and are considered as waste. This practice is not on a large scale as many households have still not cultivated the habit of recycling.

The active collectors of plastics waste can be divided into three groups in the KMA: street boys, private sector enterprises, and scavengers’ operations at the municipal landfill.

Street Boys:  These are a group of collectors in the informal sector consisting of young men and women who move from house to house or street to street to buy or pick any plastic waste that they may come across. They sometimes also sit near the municipal containers and wait for some valuable materials to arrive which they can collect and sell.

Private Sector: Some of the collection crew in the private sector collects plastic waste at the same time as they are collecting solid waste from households and institutions. Open and push collection vehicles give them easy access to sort out and collect plastic materials from the mixed waste. The majority of the waste enterprises in the city only engage in the collection and disposal of solid waste, but in certain cases the employees are seen collecting plastics for themselves and are selling them to wholesalers.

Scavengers at the Municipal Landfill: The last group of collectors is those who collect different kind of materials at the municipal landfill and open dump site in the metropolis. The quality of the plastic materials collected at this stage in the system is generally of a much lower quality compared to those collected by the street boys and the waste enterprises.

The survey showed that the street boys collect more and quality plastic and therefore makes more money than their counterparts. The survey showed that GHC5000 is paid for 10 tons and 25p for 1kg of plastic waste collected. Eighty percent (80%) of the street collectors said it took them between 2 to 3 weeks to do such a collection whereas scavengers who scout at landfills and open dumps spend between 4-6 weeks to do similar collection.

Three types of plastic are normally sought after by the waste pickers and these are sachet, damaged plastic containers such as cups, buckets among others, and plastic liquid bottles. In a focus group discussion, it came out that the pickers prefer the plastic sachet and plastic bottles to the damaged plastic containers because of the weight and comparatively ready market.

Several companies have been established in the KMA, AMA and the TMA to recycle plastic waste. One of such companies is Clamonia Limited located at Amanfrom, a suburb of the KMA. According to the marketing manager, the company employs 70 personnel and goes round to buy the plastic waste from their locations. According him their plant can recycle 18000tons of waste a day and therefore look beyond the metropolis for the supplies.

Blowplast Limited, another company that recycles plastic waste has an organized network of about 100 people engaged in collecting plastic waste sachets. They supply the company’s 14 trucks that regularly pick up the waste in the various areas of Accra. The plastic wastes are transported to Tema where they are stored in a depot or warehouse that belongs to the company. The company collects between 7-8 tons of waste plastics sachet per day, but the capacity of the recycling plant is 24 tons. The company pays 20p per kilograms of plastic waste. One kilogram contains about 200 plastic waste sachets. Some individual collectors are able to collect up to 200 kg per day. This means that on the average, some individual collectors are able to make over GHC40.00 a day and if one thinks of the fact the daily minimum wage in Ghana is not up to GHC 4.00 then plastic waste is a real Gold. Hence some collectors have become so rich that they have also organized people below them to collect the plastic sachets.

How plastic is currently being used

Trashy Bags [39] is a Ghana company that converts used plastics to handbags, dresses, pencil cases, caps, among others. Trashy Bags Company has 60 workers who use plastic sachets collected from the local environment for innovative products. About 180,000 plastic sachets (i.e., 275.143 kg or 6000 bags) on the streets are reused per month. Nelplast Ghana Limited [58] company in Ghana has 74 direct employers and about 230 indirect workers. The company uses its creative ideas to convert plastic waste into pavement blocks. In the production of pavement blocks using plastic waste, only PVC