As a nation, it is important to accept the reality that, the management of plastic wastes has not been the best. This certainly calls for the need to support efforts at finding a lasting solution to the problem since its effects such as cholera and malaria have no respect for all persons, irrespective of age, colour and gender.
According to health officials, the 2014 cholera outbreak in Ghana hit a record seventeen thousand (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 filthy nature of the nation’s capital. In January 2013, the Ghana Health Service declared a cholera outbreak in the Ashanti Region. Eighteen people died and 310 cases were registered in that region. 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 city coupled with the onset of the rains. Indeed many have raised concerns about the poor management of plastics in Ghana. In a wake-up call, the President, John Dramani Mahama, addressing members of the El-Wak Keep Fit Club in Accra, warned that Ghana might have to go the Rwanda way when he said ‘in Rwanda, plastics are banned, nobody uses plastics and yet they are surviving.’ It is said that hard times never last but tough people do.
The plastic waste challenges Ghana is confronted with today, will last if tough decisions to ensure a clean and sound environment are not taken. It is in the light of this that the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, 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 and the negative attitude of people in its use and disposal.
Following discussions with stakeholders, an agreement has been reached for proper management of plastics in the country, that from the 1st of November 2015, all flexible plastics produced in the country should have bio-degradable additive to make them bio-degradable for easy management. Also, all stocks of flexible plastics would have to be cleared from the market in three months ending this month. According to the directives, all flexible plastics below 20 microns produced in the country and imported 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. It is a welcome news, the sector Ministry’s assurance, that further discussions with stakeholders are ongoing to ensure introduction of re-usable friendly plastics, increase recycling, institute the culture of waste separation and segregation, institute other incentives that will encourage plastic buy-back at shopping malls and other places.
It is worth noting the Ministry’s pledge to work timelessly to ensure that the current plastic situation is brought under control to create a healthy and clean Ghana. This makes it imperative, the need for Ghanaians to join hands with the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation to create the desired environment we want and deserve.
The road map set out by the Ministry and relevant institutions to curb plastic wastes in the country ought to be taken note of and complied with by all. Let us consider the enormous benefits that would accrue from the new prescription for the production of flexible plastics with biodegradable additive of not less than 20 microns in the country, when we sacrifice and comply for the good course.
BY: ZAKARI MUSAH, PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICER OF THE MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT, SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION.