A few years past, I wouldn’t have bothered myself about 18th March, but I am worried sick about all the waste we are wasting! When I was in SHS, and to the time I went to study Social Studies in University of Education, Winneba (UEW) and later Development Planning at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), I would never have bothered much about a day like this, I was more interested in girls’ education, teenage pregnancy, women empowerment, and female inclusion, among other things. Who would have thought that such a person would be worrying herself about recycling waste or about how waste should not be wasted.
Not to say now I don’t have interest in these things or I didn’t care about the environment, I still do, but this time, I look at these things from a different perspective. My work at Mountain Research Institute, especially the work with the informal sector has taken me to places to see how people in the
sector are making very good use of waste. When I say waste, I mean all kinds of waste, from fecal waste, to plastics, to glass, electronic waste (e-waste) and so on. Waste is anything that the owner discards or intends to discards or anything which we no longer have use of and wish to get rid of. The sustainable management of waste has become a major cause of worry worldwide. the sad part is that we do not realise that waste is a resource!
18th March, is set aside to celebrate Global Recycling Day, a day celebrated to remind people to not only reduce, but to reuse, repair and recycle their waste. It is also an opportunity for stakeholders to remind each other about their role in ensuring environmental sustainability. This day was created in the year 2018 to help recognize, and celebrate the importance recycling plays in preserving our precious primary resources and securing the future of our planet. It is a day for the world to come together and put the planet first. Not to say that we should not put the planet first every other day, we should make conscious efforts every other day towards securing the future of the planet. As individuals, we may not be able to do the big and major things like recycling and up cycling, but we all have a role to play. Around the globe, Germany is said to be the country with the highest recycling rate in the world since 2016, with 56.1% of all waste being recycled in the country.
One of the things we can do is to practice separation of waste wherever we find ourselves. For instance, in our homes and offices, we can have separate spaces for different waste type, plastic waste, paper waste, electronic waste, biodegradable waste and so on. Not that a lot of people don’t know this, but how many of those who know this are able to do it? Just a few, that is why we still find a lot of dumpsites filled with all kinds of waste types.
Another way to ensure environmental sustainability is to practice the 5Rs, that is Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Repurpose and Recycle. These may seem like no effort at all, but look at it this way. Anytime you go shopping, you are given different goods in separate bags, so you go home with a lot of plastic bags which eventually become waste. If you decide to go with your own shopping bag, you can load all your goods into this bag which you can use over and over, by doing so, you are not just reducing your use of resources, but you are also reusing, which are part of the 5Rs we will be discussing in the next paragraph. If you are a shop owner or a trader, you could also encourage your customers to come shopping with shopping bags, you could even give them some small gifts or discounts when they come with their own shopping bags.
We can also practice the 5Rs, by practicing these 5Rs, we don’t have to interfere with the natural
environment to exploit primary resources for our use, rather some materials such as end of life electrical and electronic gadgets, aluminum, copper, glass, paper, plastics and so on can be recycled into new materials for our daily use. Thus, we are able to save production and energy costs, as well as reduce the negative impacts that the extraction and processing of primary resources materials has on the environment. This is important because it ensures that waste are not thrown into the environment, a lot of people are getting more innovative and creative with waste.
Waste management should be a responsibility of each and everyone of us, not just the responsibility of the waste management companies. One other thing that many of us do is dumping waste anywhere and anyhow especially waste in small quantities, example is after drinking water, we may be tempted to drop the bottle or sachet anywhere. Imagine if 20 people do this at one location in a day, your guess is as right as mine. Despite the role that some recycling companies play in Ghana towards recycling waste, there are still a lot of challenges with regards to waste management. My office organized a visit to some of these facilities, let me share with you the beautiful things they do.
Electrorecycling Ghana turn old electronics into television sets, power banks, the are also sorting of e-waste plastics and so on. At Jekora Ventures, they turn fecal matter into compost, the also collect waste paper, plastic (which they shred) and glass bottles. These are exported or given to other companies to turn into finished products for use by companies and households. For example, the paper is taken by a company in Winneba who turn them into toilet rolls, the glass bottles are exported to a company in France for recycling into jewelries. The last company, Pyramid Recycling located at Darkuman also turn all kinds of household plastics (plastic baskets, chairs, gallons, cups, buckets, poly bags, etc) into finished goods like cover for the feet for chairs, curtain ropes, and plastic rods. These plastic rods are used in place of wooden rods for roofing, they had used some to put us a washroom, this they said would last forever.
We all cannot be like these big recyclers, but we can of course we can take small steps towards achieving environment sustainability. Let us be positive and make conscious efforts to be positive in
waste management practices, keeping in mind that our children and their children and the next generation will all depend on this environment for survival. The onus therefore lies on us to keep it safe for their use. Don’t say, let me do my negative practice today and behave well towards the environment tomorrow. Lets all start recycling towards a sustainable tomorrow today. We are all recycling heroes for creative innovations. There are options for waste, don’t waste waste.