Tag Archives: Plastics

A Call for Wetlands Protection.

Happy World Wetlands Day to everyone who works to protect global wetlands.

Wetlands are the link between land and water, and are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world. Some common names for different types of wetlands are swamp, marsh and bog. To be called a wetland, an area must be filled or soaked with water at least part of the year.

As wetlands are continuously threatened by human activities, this is a day to spread awareness on the importance of wetlands and call on more people to join hands in protecting wetlands.

In Ghana, we are loosing our wetlands (especially, Mangrove wetlands) at an alarming rate despite the many projects carried out by conservation groups. During 2015 World Environmental Day, I coordinated the Ghana Youth Climate Coalition to join a tree planting exercise at the Muni-Pomadze Ramsar site in Winneba – which is globally  known for wetland Turtle conservation. It was sad to see plastics all around a ramsar site which accommodates over 13o species of organisms. In other places across the country, mangroves at some wetlands are being harvested for fish smoking. Interaction with fishmongers reveals that smoking fish with the mangrove gives the fish a better taste. This act has led to the loss of mangrove vegetation in the Central Region, and parts of the Volta Region.


Plastic waste at the banks of the Muni Lagoon at Muni-Pomadze Ramsar Site. Photo Credit: Joshua Amponsem

At the Kakum estuary in Cape Coast, which is surround by a mangrove wetland, it is heartbreaking to witness the frequency and speed at which people are encroaching the wetlands. People are erecting buildings so close to the wetlands and some sitting right on the wetlands. This has contributed to a chronic flooding events within some parts of the Cape Coast metropolis. The Kakum estuary alone contains over eighteen species belonging to 18 genera and 12 families of marine, brackish water and freshwater fishes. If the wetland surrounding the estuary is threatened so is the estuary. Additionally, as a very sensitive ecosystem, it is disturbing to find people practicing open defecation and throwing refuse (mainly plastics) in an around the wetland.


Why protect Wetlands?

  •  Wetlands function like a sponge, soaking up water that comes in with the tides, or from periodically flooding rivers. In fact, they control floods much more effectively and efficiently than any flood wall.
  • Wetlands are Carbon Sink. Because the soils found in wetlands can store carbon for hundreds of years, they play an important role in fighting climate change.
  • Aids in Sea Level Rise Mitigation. As global warming increases and sea levels rise, wetlands are the first barrier to protecting people living closer the sea and within flood zone area.
  • Recreation and Tourism. Spanning from bird watching, biking, hiking, and kayaking, wetlands provide people with many ways to enjoy nature. In Ghana, we receive migratory birds at our estuaries and wetlands – this is something the Ghana Tourism Authority needs to look at.
  • Wildlife Nursery. Because of its unique location between water and land, salt and freshwater, wetlands shelter a wide range of vulnerable species while serving as a breeding site for many organisms. Without wetlands, a huge number of songbirds, waterfowl, shellfish, and other mammals just wouldn’t exist.
  • Fertile Farm Land. The staple diet of half the world’s population is rice, which grows in wetlands in many parts of the world.

There are many more benefits of wetland that cannot be mentioned. The frequent flood events in most coastal cities in Ghana can be attributed to destruction of wetlands. As we celebrate Wetlands today, I call on all global citizens to advocate for the protection of wetlands.




Should Ghana ban plastic?

From DW: http://www.dw.com/en/should-ghana-ban-plastic/a-37122891

Ghana is swimming in plastic waste. Should the government introduce a plastic ban? In a guest commentary by climate advocate Joshua Amponsem, he speaks to Ghanaian activists about the future of plastic in the country.

DW Sendung Eco@Africa Joshua Amponsem (Reinhold Mangundu)

Plastic waste fills the streets and chokes gutters, rivers and lakes in Ghana’s cities and towns. The problem is so urgent that the country’s government announced plans to impose a partial ban on light plastics in mid-2015. But a backlash amongst business leaders and policy makers forced the government to abandon the plan and instead propose a new law that would force plastic manufacturers to make biodegradable plastics.

The move makes Ghana one of the few countries to commercialize oxo-biodegradable plastics, as they are known. Still, most industries are refusing to comply with the new standards. Save a few businesses such as Ghanaian water firm Special Ice, a majority are still selling water in standard plastic, for instance. As a result, the plastic problem persists.

With plastic manufacturers’ reluctance to make their product biodegradable, is the plastic ban in fact the way to go? It’s a pressing question for environmental activists like myself and I asked it of a number of young active citizens who gathered from all parts of Ghana in January for the first edition of the “Active Citizenship Webinar.” Here are the results.

DW Sendung Eco@Africa Müllkippe (Joshua Amponsem)Plastic waste is a huge problem for Ghana. Here polythene bags burn at a dump in Akrofuom

Some believed a plastic ban wouldn’t work. It’s a waste resource that should be utilized and banning it could have an adverse economic impact. Samuel Boakye, a business consultant living in Accra, asked: “How much of our population is able to gain employment from the sale and manufacture of these bags? How would the ban affect such people?” He believes the government must instead increase recycling and help provide necessary capital to facilitate the use of plastic waste for the production of other plastic products like chairs, tables, and bowls.

Speaking as an environmental advocate, I mentioned that employment and the economy could get a boost if plastic bags were banned and replaced with paper and cotton versions. People won’t lose their jobs, they will sell paper and cotton bags instead and we will need more farmers as a result. Furthermore, I explained that in Kumasi, a city in southern, Ghana, cotton bags were successfullly introduced in December ahead of Christmas.

Either way, say environmentally-conscious Ghanaians, the country needs to deal with its plastic problem, as its water bodies are gradually being filled with waste and fishermen sometimes end up with a bumper catch of plastic rather than fish. “Preserving our marine life, such as turtles, is very critical because it can generate more foreign exchange as tourists come in to observe turtles on our beaches at dawn,” Belinda Kulordzi, a history student at the University of Ghana, said. Educating people about the harmful effects of plastic waste is key, she added.

DW Sendung Eco@Africa Plastik (Joshua Amponsem)So far nobody in Ghana has come up with a way to deal with waste. Here plastic is disposed of inappropriately

But Kelly Anyomitse, a public health activist and the curator of the Active Citizenship Webinar, highlighted the fact that education will take several years to change the attitude of Ghanaians toward plastics. He asked whether we could rely on education alone, given the extent of pollution and the resulting damage.

Ghana’s plastic problem has persisted for years and so far nobody has managed to come up with a robust approach to managing it nationwide. Ultimately, those taking part in the discussion believe a mix of different approaches is the best way to tackle the problem.

Increasing the price of plastic bags would make them unaffordable and unattractive to many people and would cause a gradual, organic phase out. People would be more likely to opt for cheaper paper bags and more expensive, but long-lasting cotton bags. With nuisance plastic bags more or less gone, existing recycling companies could then focus on collecting and recycling water bottles, leaving us with cities free of light plastic waste.

As active citizens of Ghana, we are hopeful that our nation will place more value in protecting the air, food and water offered to us by Mother Earth and in ensuring quality environmental standards to promote good health and a better life for all Ghanaians.

Joshua Amponsem, is an environmental activist and climate advocate with a degree in Environmental Science. He focuses on youth mobilization for environmental events and advocacy through volunteerism, and social media. While an undergraduate, he founded Green Africa Youth Organization – a non-profit organization, which serves as an advocacy anchor in environmental protection. With strong love for nature, Joshua works for environmental transformation in Africa through leadership and collaboration with like-minded youth activists and organizations across the world.

Recycling In Africa

Globally over 1 million plastic bags are used and disposed every minute but I think the quota of India and Africa of the 1 million trash is much larger than that of America, Europe and Australia – comparing population. In Africa, I will congratulate Rwanda as the only country which has been able to ban plastic bags. Other countries like Ghana has once mentioned and made an attempt to ban plastics but to no avail.

In Ghana, drinking water comes in plastic sachets rather than bottle, amounting a large amount of plastic waste in the country. In 2013, a report conducted by the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) indicates that 1,200,000 Ghana Cedis (/ $400,000) can be generated in the country every a month, if the plastics go through various stages towards recycling. According a local news platform “The Ghanaian Times”, the research was submitted to the local Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology’s Committee on the Ban of Plastics in Ghana and following that, a there has been a rise in plastic recycling initiatives.

The Accra Compost and Recycling, Jekora Ventures, EnviroPlast, are some of the performing companies dealing with recycling and composting in Ghana. Additionally, there are some amazing initiatives by NGOs, Non-Profits and other small and medium scale enterprises that are championing recycling at small scale. Trash Bag is one of these organizations. Trash Bags collects water sachets from streets and recycle them into sustainable fashion products – handbags, laptop bags, market bags, etc. In other parts of Africa, these sachets are used in art making.

Plastic waste recycled into handy bags and laptop bags.

Plastic waste recycled into handy bags and laptop bags.

In Kenya, group of individuals are converting plastics waste into poles and road posts. Started in 2015 and documented by Aljazeera, this initiative in Kenya is gradually creating employment and reducing (if not eliminating) plastic waste – Watch video here:

wp_ss_20160628_0005 wp_ss_20160628_0007

In Central and East Africa, a paper recycling industry is also recycling waste paper into toilet rolls, tissue paper, egg crates and many more usable products. Chandaria Industries Limited provide livelihood and employment for over 5,000 people in Kenya from waste paper recycling. Comparatively, paper and metal recycling in Africa is much industrious than plastic and e-waste recycling.

South Africa is another country that is performing relatively better than most countries in Africa – with over 50 recycling firms operating at a larger scale and converting plastic waste into chairs, pipes, polythene bags, etc.

Waste generated in middle income country is somewhat much than high income countries and I realized it is so because developed countries have more recycling initiatives than middle income countries. In Central, East, West and some parts of Northern Africa, waste is a menace. It filth our streets, choke our gutters and causes land pollution. In 2014, Agbogbloshie dumpsite in Ghana was listed as the World?s largest e-waste dumpsite. Despite several reports concerning the health hazard of the electronic waste dumpsite, the site is still home to thousands of individuals – including scavengers, smelters and market women.

agbogbloshie dumpsite

Agbogbloshie E-waste Dumpsite

Gradually, I anticipate investors and entrepreneurs to see the business opportunity in recycling electronic waste in Africa.


Organizers of the event.

Organizers of the event.

The anti-plastic campaign has been formulated to build the capacity of coastal communities about the various effects of plastic waste on their ecosystem. This project was developed due to the acclimatized usage and habitual inappropriate disposal of polythene bags and other plastic items by community dwellers in coastal communities in and around Cape Coast.

Among the many coastal communities in central Ghana, Duakro was our first visited community. The Duakro community is only about 100 meters from the sea (Gulf of Guinea) and inhabits about 800 native people – they are well known for the production and selling of gari (a very common and favourite Ghanaian food) thus, their basic source of income aside fishing. The town also accommodates some mangroves as well as other coastal organisms.

Despite the sensitivity of the ecosystem Duakro and its inhabitants find themselves in, indiscriminate and inappropriate waste disposal is a habit of community folks. Upon visiting the town, plastic waste, especially used polythene bags, were found on in and around houses in the community. At the beach and shoreline were also plastic wastes which can easily find its way into the sea and destroy some aquatic species. Ghana depends so much on the fisheries sector and thus a need for an education program for coastal dwellers on the ecological function of the coastal ecosystem and its protection through proper waste handling and disposal.

GAYO together with partners.

GAYO together with partners.

To ensure effective communication and resourceful capacity building, Green Africa Youth Organization (GAYO) built partnership with Ghana Youth Climate Coalition (GYCC), A ROCHA – Ghana, Department of Environmental Science (ENSSA) and Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Science (FAS) of the University of Cape Coast. With a coalition of environmental groups with diverse focus and resources, the campaign which occurred on the 21st of September, 2015 was nothing else but a success.

The anti-plastic campaign and coastal community capacity building event brought together 63 volunteers – a mix up of students (youth) and adults who has interest in environmental advocacy. At 6:30 am, volunteers gathered at the University of Cape Coast where they were educated on the ecological function of coastal ecosystems by the department of fisheries and aquatic science and the department of environmental science. GYCC also gave a lecture on how inappropriate handling and disposal of waste contribute to air pollution and induce climate change. A-ROCHA Ghana highlighted and drew the attention of volunteers to some species in the coastal ecosystem which needs conservation.

At this point, volunteers were equipped with all the knowledge they will need to speak against the excessive use of plastics and proper disposal of its resulting waste. Green Africa Youth Organization led the last session by emphasizing on the need for environmental sustainability and the role of youth in environmental advocacy in Ghana. Joshua Amponsem, executive director of GAYO and the 15th Eco-generation Regional Ambassador to Ghana also announced support given by Samsung Engineering and United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP).

Educating gari sellers on proper plastic waste disposal

Educating gari sellers on proper plastic waste disposal

At 8:30 am, volunteers and organizers set out to Duakro community to campaign for a cleaner and safer environment. The community leader announced our presence and mission and pleaded that community members should welcome us for a fruitful interaction. Afterwards, we divided ourselves into 6 groups with at least 2 people in each group who understands and can speak proficiently, the local dialect of the people of Duakro. Two groups were assigned to the gari preparation site of the community, one group was assigned to children found wandering in the community and three groups were assigned to households. We campaigned for reuse of plastic items, reduction in the usage of plastics and refusing to use plastics.

We expected to spend at most 10 minutes in each house since we will be covering about 70 houses. However, low illiteracy on the side of community folks resulted in groups spending up to about 20 minutes in some houses. After 3 hours of outreach, our target of coverage had been met and Eco Generational Ambassador to Ghana, Joshua Amponsem, called for a gathering to document feedback from community inhabitants on the campaign and to discuss a long term sustainability project for Duakro.

Brainstorming for long term environmental sustainable project for community

Brainstorming for long term environmental sustainable project for community

Members of groups brought out community concerns:

  • The community has one open dustbin and which is not being emptied frequently. During our campaign, the dustbin was full – open to flies and other insects – and about 50 meters away from the shore.
  • Most adults in the community mentioned that the government should ban the production and importation of unnecessary plastic products.
  • Youth, especially females, raised concerns about the lack of toilet facility in the community.
  • Gari sellers and most women also pleaded that we provide them with jute bags which will serve as market and shopping bags for them in place of the polythene.

Joshua Amponsem, on behalf of GAYO suggested a joint project with the collaboration of all organizations present. This project was discussed and a stakeholders meeting has been scheduled for late October. The focus of the project is to solve the concerns and challenges faced by the people of Duakro community and enhance effective waste management and hygiene.

Dr. Michael Miyittah giving closing remarks.

Dr. Michael Miyittah giving closing remarks.

Dr. Michael Miyittah (Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Science at University of Cape Coast) our dignitary, later graced the occasion with words of thanks to all volunteers and organizations who made the anti-campaign a reality.


Educating food seller to sell in bowls. NO MORE POLYTHENE!

Educating food seller to sell in bowls. NO MORE POLYTHENE!

store talk

Educating store keepers about proper handling and disposal of plastic wastes

Entering households campaigning for Reuse, Reduce and Refuse

Entering households campaigning for Reuse, Reduce and Refuse

final pictures