World Environment Day

Will you believe me if I told you that, the disposable diapers your mum used to wear on you when you

This is how long the plastics we use take to decompose

were a toddler haven’t decomposed yet and will take several more years to decompose long after you have passed? When we dispose the plastics, they take about 20 to 500 years to decompose. 20 years is the least that plastics take to biodegrade and some can last as far as 500 years. Most of the plastics that we keep for our daily use do not decompose immediately we dispose them. They take a very long time, from 20 years onwards, this is however dependent on the type of material and the environmental factors such as sunlight exposure. A shopping bag takes about 20 years to decompose, plastic bottles take up to 450 years. Do you know that it takes about 500 years for a disposable nappy, what most of us call diapers to decompose? Ever since I found out this information, I feel so guilty anytime I have to dispose off my baby’s diapers. If you are using biodegradable diapers however, they take about 50 years to fully decompose, that is 10 times faster than the plastic disposable diapers.

Today marks World Environment Day which is also known as “Eco Day”, this year, the celebration is

Today is World Environment Day

centered around plastic pollution under the hashtag, beat plastic pollution. Ghana generates about 840,000 tonnes of plastic waste and less than 10% of this plastic waste is collected and recycled. Even though there have been a lot of education on plastic pollution in Ghana, there are very few efforts by individuals and organizations to manage plastic waste. Most of our household items are made from plastics, come to think of it, just do a quick reflection of the activities you engage in daily, from brushing of your teeth to bathing, combing your hair, eating, drinking, even the pair of slippers you wear to shower, is made from plastics, thus our household waste is made up of plastics, plastic bags, plastic bottle, just think of anything plastic, and you are sure to find it in the waste bin.

Most eateries are moving from plastic bowls to paper bowls

One of the things we can do to beat pollution is to avoid “single” use of plastics as much as we can. When we buy and use reusable plastics, we are cutting down on the number of plastics that go into the dumpsites. One of the things we do in my office is to encourage everyone to bring their own reusable drink cup or bottle, and fetch drinking water from the dispenser. We have also replaced disposable drinking cups with reusable water glasses for visitors. Thus, we don’t have to buy single use disposable cups which will increase the amount of plastic pollution in the world. While you may think this is not significant, we have stopped using single use cups in the office, we previously used about 3 packs of disposable cups in a week, that is nonexistent. I think that you too can find a way to avoid single use of plastics in your home and at work.

Another way to beat plastic pollution is to reduce the amount of plastics we use. Sometimes, we can do without the extra plastic, especially plastic bags from our shopping. Sometimes when you buy an item, the trader will package it in a plastic bag, and then place it in another plastic bag. To most of them, they are trying to please the customer so that you can come again. Others simply want to secure your items, but most of the times, this second bag is not needed. Once we get home, we may not even

Waste is easy to sort

have the patience to untie the knot and empty the contents so that we can reuse the bag, we just tear it open, rendering the bags useless. And once it is no longer useful, it is headed for the bin, where it will be burnt (we will talk about this one later) or taken to the dumpsite to last several years before it decomposes.

Sometimes, we need to take our own shopping bags to the market. Shopping bags don’t have to be anything extra expensive, sometimes, you can use the bags that the shopping mall or the trader has given you. There is nothing wrong with going back to the shopping centre with the bag they gave you before. In fact, you can take it there as many times as the bag is still in good shape. If you can however afford biodegradable shopping bags like those made from straw or fabric or even a tote bag, get one and use for your shopping. In some countries, you have to pay for the shopping bag, so people carry their own shopping bags, in most cases, the bags they take shopping are reusable, thus they don’t have to dispose them off immediately, this helps to reduce plastic waste indirectly. I know people who even carry their own food containers to purchase food as they don’t have to carry any plastics packages home, maybe we can practice that too.

Waste sorting is another way to reduce plastic pollution. Even though there are waste pickers who collect plastics from dumpsites, they are not able to recover all the plastic waste from the dumpsites. When we sort our waste, it is easier to make sure that all particular waste types are collected. When we talk about waste sorting, most people get ambitious and think of it as something big, that is not the

Dustbin made from waste water bottles

case. You can do waste sorting no matter how small the waste you generate is. Keep a plastic bag at one corner of your space and drop empty water sachets or bottles in it anytime you drink water, don’t mix it with your general waste. One challenge that many Ghanaians face with waste sorting is that, most waste collection vehicles will still collect all the waste together. That notwithstanding, there are people who go around to collect a particular waste type, try and identify one of such people and let them know you have what they around to collect. If we can sort the waste, people don’t have to go through the headache to collect the waste for recycling.

To beat plastic pollution, we can try to recycle some of our plastics too. There are organizations who focus mainly on plastic recycling, these organizations buy their raw materials (plastic waste) from individuals or other organizations and recycle them into other products. As individuals, we can also do some small recycling of our plastics and turn them into essentials in our homes. With the current trend of home gardening, most people are using their plastic bottles as flower pots for their crops. All they do is to perforate some holes on the plastic bottle, cut off the top, fill the bottle with soil and you are good to go. With this, you don’t only get an alternative use for plastic waste, you also get to enjoy some home-grown food. That is more like killing two birds with one stone.

Now, a lot of the big eateries are shifting away from plastic bowls, take away packs and plastic bags to single use paper bowls and paper bags to serve their foods. This, I think is a very laudable idea and other food vendors should be encouraged to learn from this. In Ghana, a lot of people love to eat

Here is your favorite breakfast served on leaves

waakye or gobe for breakfast, and they love to have this meal served on leaves. But, imagine asking the waakye seller to serve your waakye on leaves, and after that she puts it again in a plastic bag, ties it up and put it in another plastic bag. So, what is the point requesting for the leaves in the first place. Are you requesting to eat on the leaves because of the fun of eating on leaves or you are trying to reduce plastic waste and plastic pollution? I raised this somewhere and an argument arose as some mentioned there is so much oil in the waakye and that is why the vendor has to place it in a plastic bag, but I think that this is just a temporary issue which can be resolved.

Today, let us be more conscious on plastic pollution, let us reduce our use of plastics, let us avoid single use plastics, let us reuse our plastics and most importantly, let us sort our waste and give them out for recycling. After today’s celebration, we should not forget that plastic pollution is a global issue and we can take small steps locally to beat plastic pollution.


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