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Plastics are choking the world’s oceans, shorelines and rivers. It's getting worse inland. Despite Ghana drowning in plastic trash, the Government has announced it won't be banning plastics, citing the country's growing dependency on plastic products.


How would you tackle the problems of single-use plastic waste in developing cities such as Accra and Lagos?


Last updated: 11 November 2019 6:08 PM (GMT)


By Muntaka Chasant | 1081 words | Reading time: 4 min





Plastic Pollution in Ghana 

A man rides a bike across a timber bridge over a sea of plastics near the center of Accra, Ghana's capital city. Photo Credit: Muntaka Chasant


The Global Plastic Pollution Problem


Latest Plastic Pollution in Ghana Article: Plastic Pollution in Ghana: Urban Trash Heroes


A juvenile Cuvier beaked whale washed up around March 2019 in the Philippines with nearly 90lbs of plastic bags in its stomach. To the shock of researchers, they found "the most plastic" they had ever seen in a whale  - 16 rice sacks and plastic shopping bags tightly packed in its belly.1


Plastics are often ingested by marine life who mistake them for food.





A study published in the journal PNAS in November 2019 has found that small pieces of plastics outnumber baby fish by 7 to 1 along the coast of West Hawaii.  


Single-use plastics are devastating the world’s oceans, habitats, and marine life. 


Plastic Pollution in Ghana 

The heavily polluted Korle Lagoon in Accra. Plastic Pollution in Accra, Ghana/ 5 October 2019. Photo Credit: Muntaka Chasant


study which investigated the social and economic impact of plastics in the ocean says plastic pollution costs the world up to $2.5 trillion a year.


Another study also estimated the cost of plastic pollution to the world’s marine ecosystem to roughly $13 billion each year.2


Plastic waste can enter the ocean through improper waste management such as the waste generated by coastal population, disposed plastics in uncontrolled dumps and littered waste.


Up to 12 million tonnes of plastics entered the ocean in 2010 alone (Jambeck et al., 2015).3


According to the United Nations Environmental Programme, more than 8 million tonnes of plastics enter the ocean each year.


How Are Plastics Affecting Poorer Countries? 


Single-use plastics waste regularly clog sewers, cause flooding and create a breeding ground for mosquitoes. This can increase the risk of vector-borne diseases — including malaria and lymphatic filariasis — in some poorer countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia.  


Plastic Pollution in Ghana 


See also: A Small Glimmer Of Hope Comes To Agbogbloshie


Plastic Pollution in Ghana

Plastics covering a beach in Jamestown, a district near the center of Accra, Ghana's capital city. Plastic Pollution in Ghana/ October 2018. Photo Credit: Muntaka Chasant


Waste infrastructure has failed to keep up with Ghana's economic growth, leaving its capital (Accra) drowning in plastic trash.


Streets and waterways in Accra and other urban areas in Ghana are regularly inundated with single-use plastics — including shopping bags, pure water plastic bags, plastic takeaway food boxes, and water/soda bottles.


Despite Ghana drowning in plastic trash, the Government announced on July 2, 2019, that it won't be banning plastics as it is not in the country's best interest. See Ghana's Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation announce and justify it here


The minister rhetorically asked the audience in one of the videos in the blue highlighted link above: "If you ban something and you are not able to monitor and police it, what do you do?".


Interesting question to pose to the audience. 


Is the Government of Ghana admitting it is incapable of designing and implementing a policy? Isn't it exactly the responsibility of the state to implement and enforce a country-wide policy? Who is the Ghana Government expecting to do this for them? International donor partners?


So, in effect, this is what the Government of Ghana said: even if we do ban plastics, we won't be able to enforce it, so no, we won't be banning it. People in Ghana actually use plastics, so why ban it heh?



Here’s my impression of the minister's talking points from the video in the link above:


The minister seemed to have placed users/individuals at the center of Ghana’s plastic pollution crisis in a way to avoid responsibility. He hardly urged producers to do more.


He continuously stressed the use of plastics in industry as why they couldn’t be banned. Fair enough.


Note to Ghana's Minister for Environment: the emphasis is on single-use plastics — just as China recently announced it plans to gradually phase them out. Plastics from the medical industry (crucial for modern medicine) hardly choke gutters or end up in the Korle. It’s the unbranded plastic takeaway food boxes, shopping bags and pure water plastics bags which mostly pollute Ghana's urban waterways.



Statistics on Plastics in Ghana 


According to a study, Ghana generated 302,192 kg/day of plastic waste in 2010 (more than 4 times generated in Kenya per day during the same period), and 81% (around 244,835 kg/day) of the waste was inadequately managed - plastic waste dumped in uncontrolled landfills. This did not include ‘littered’ plastic waste.


On average, each person in Ghana generated around 0.04 kg of plastics per day in 2010. Overall, around 6,044 kg of plastics were littered in Ghana every day. In comparison, only 1,466 kg of plastics were littered in Kenya every day in 2010.


Due to dysfunctional municipal waste management services, residents in urban areas in Ghana regularly burn plastic waste in the open, releasing highly toxic substances such as dioxins and furans into the environment.


Open burning of residential trash (with high plastic content) is a major source of air pollution in many developing countries - including Ghana.


More than 28,000 premature deaths in Ghana every year are linked to air pollution, according to the World Health Organization.4


See the magnitude of Ghana's dirty air problems in the link below:


RELATED: Air Pollution Killing More People in Ghana



Solutions To Plastic Pollution in Ghana


Plastic Pollution in Ghana 2019

Plastic Pollution in Ghana picture. Copyright © 2020 Muntaka Chasant


The following actions could help to reduce plastic pollution in Ghanaian cities:


• Complete government ban or reuse legislation - This could target the most visible single-use plastics such as pure water plastic bags, shopping bags, and water/soda bottles.


• Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) - This includes regulations to make producers responsible for the impacts of plastics on the environment - such as the growing cost of addressing plastic litter (collection, disposal, street sweeping, waterway cleanups, etc.). This extends the producer’s responsibility for a product to the post-usage stage. This could also include mandatory take-back programs.


• Incentives to industry through tax cuts (to encourage transition), promotion of alternative technologies, and raising public awareness about the environmental impacts of single-use plastics could also help to reduce plastic pollution in Ghana and other countries.

Where do you stand - recyclability, reduction, or elimination?


How would you tackle Ghana’s growing plastic pollution problems? 


See also: Air Pollution in Ghana: Causes, Effects and Solutions


Please leave your comments below, and let us know what you think!











1. https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=2689346287758609&id=216407245052538&__tn__=-R (Retrieved March, 2019)
2. https://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/25496/singleUsePlastic_sustainability.pdf?isAllowed=y&sequence=1 (Retrieved March, 2019)
3. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/347/6223/768 (Retrieved March, 2019)
4. https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/272596/9789241565585-eng.pdf?ua=1 (Retrieved March, 2019)







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Comments (15)

  • David

    I am David, quite satisfied with your write up especially suggestions on solutions. I would want a possible team work to drive this agenda which also would align with the presidents 2020 clean Accra initiative.

    Good day.

  • Ellis


    Thanks for your feedback. Your email is stored in our system. Someone from our team will reach out to you in the course of the week.

    Happy Environment Day 2019!

    Ellis, M.
    ATC MASK Customer Support Team.

  • Elizabeth

    Hello there,
    I love what you’re doing!👍🏽
    There are so many ways to tackle waste in Ghana and Cycolyte has joined in the fight.

    Kindly reach out to us in the future. We can save our planet. ♻️🌍

  • Sam


    Thanks for the feedback. We here at ATC MASK also like your enthusiasm.

    Reach out to us anytime at contact@atcmask.com.

    Keep up the fight!


    ATC MASK Team.

  • james

    hello guys i really like your article on this issue i am currently doing a research on the issue and i think your information is really useful can i contact you for data or further info if i suppose to need some ?

  • Sam


    Sam from ATC MASK here. Thanks for the feedback.

    Yes, you can reach out to us anytime using the contact form above or the phone/WhatsApp number.

    We will be more than happy to help with your research.

    ATC MASK Team.

  • Kofitse Marvin.

    Outright Ban on single use plastics

  • Gertrude Makia

    Hello Sam. This is a great write-up I must say. Well done! I think an absolute ban on single used plastics is a lookout for. Yes Ghana can make good of all the plastic waste we have available for wide range of purposes ranging from roofing sheets, building blocks, road tare, etc.
    Am currently carrying out a research on the effects of plastics on marine life and the long-run effect on climate change.
    Will linkup for more data.

  • Sam


    Thanks for the feedback, and happy to read you are onto something yourself. Please reach out anytime and we’ll be happy to help anyhow we can


  • Salman

    @Gertrude, I’m carrying out a similar research. I am working on the relationship between Plastic ban and ocean life and the prospects for Ghana. can you leave your email address, so we could share notes.

    @Sam, I am definitely contacting you.

  • Jessie

    Well-done Sam!
    It’s very important to highlight the fact that some of our leaders make excuses to escape responsibilities. Perhaps, they’re waiting for matters to get out of hands.

    Anyway aside banning, recycling and reduction of the one-time-use plastic products such as the polythene bags and other plastic shopping bags, I think we can replace them with biodegradable and eco-friendly materials or products such as paper bags, cloth or fabric shopping bags, weaved/straw bags etc. Actually that’s what I’m working on now.

    Unfortunately, plastics have become so common and cheap in our societies. So bringing on board paper bags and other eco-friendly products (which are not common and expensive) on board is very difficult for people to patronize. But I believe that if the government and or other organizations or concerned citizens like you and I, educate the public and create awareness on the bad effects of plastics products for them to understand how urgent it is for us to take action, we can save Ghana from being swallowed by plastic waste(eg: ban some of the plastics products which are replaceable and a typical example is the polythene bags).

  • Adwoa

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write this.

    I hadn’t considered the positive impact that the banning of single-use plastic could have on reducing menace of plastic on the Ghanian environment. I’m also aware now that companies could be incentivised to switch to more eco friendly products through government support.

    I imagine that making companies take responsibility for the single-use plastic they produce, would push them to produce less or alternatives.

  • Adingo

    currently considering a study on the impact of microplastics on soil health and agricultural production, the case of Ghana. Your write-up has given me more ideas on how to go about it. keep up the good job

  • Yaa

    Hello, I really appreciate your article. I am actually trying to introduce the use of biodegradable food containers (take away packs) into the system. I think I would need your support. Would be glad if you could get in touch.

  • Yaa

    Hello, I really appreciate your article. I am actually trying to introduce the use of biodegradable food containers (take away packs) into the system. I think I would need your support. Would be glad if you could get in touch.

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