The Ghanaian government handed over most of the country’s waste management to private companies through its Public Private Partnership policy. Since then, waste management collection has increased and the country has become more sanitary. Even so, many Ghanaians dislike paying for these services. Image by Diksha Bali. Ghana, 2013.
Above, a ZoomLion employee demonstrates how she pulls trash out of the gutters along Ghana’s principal streets. Private waste management employees are only required to clean the main gutters and streets of trash. Other areas are supposed to be cleaned by the residents who live nearby, but this becomes an issue, as residents complain that most of the trash surrounding their homes is not theirs. Image by Diksha Bali. Ghana, 2013.
Major waste management companies are also involved in house-to-house collection of trash, for which residents are charged a monthly fee. One of these companies, ZoomLion, has structured payments so that people who live in higher income areas pay more than those who live in lower income areas, explained ZoomLion operations manager Stephen Gyekye-Darko. Image by Diksha Bali. Ghana, 2013.
In areas where they don’t conduct house-to-house collection, private waste management companies manage large dumping grounds where people must pay to dump their waste. Image by Diksha Bali. Ghana, 2013.
The fact that waste disposal services cost money deters people, even some of the rich, from using them. Often in villages, Ghanaians choose to burn their waste in their backyards instead of paying for services. Image by Diksha Bali. Ghana, 2013.
In cities, people who do not want to pay for waste removal dump their trash on the streets and in the gutters. This leads to floods of dirty water in the streets, which sometimes enter houses and shops. Image by Diksha Bali. Ghana, 2013.
Although waste collection is improving, Ghana is running out of places to put its trash. Recycling and composting may be part of the solution to Ghana’s waste management woes. ZoomLion says its Accra compost and recycling plant is the first such plant in Ghana. ZoomLion has plans to build another plant in Kumasi in the coming years. Image by Diksha Bali. Ghana, 2013.
For now, however, recycling has not gone mainstream. Scavengers such as Emmanuel Appiah collect plastic and glass materials to sell to large production companies. To scale recycling up, Ghana would require a larger and more stable electrical supply. Image by Diksha Bali. Ghana, 2013.
Informal recycling: some shopkeepers collect plastic waste from their customers and resell it to plastic companies. This is more characteristic of city life. Recycling rarely occurs in the villages. Image by Diksha Bali. Ghana, 2013.
The re-use market also exists in Ghana. Glass and plastic bottles are collected and often used to store fluids like palm oil that are made at home and then sold in the marketplaces. Image by Diksha Bali. Ghana, 2013.
At the same time that recycling and composting are touted as the future of Ghana’s waste management, Ghana still continues to import paper and plastic from abroad. Image by Diksha Bali. Ghana, 2013.
Almost everyone in the country of 25 million still drinks water out of plastic sachets or bottles due to water safety concerns. Image by Diksha Bali. Ghana, 2013.

Many years ago, almost all Ghanaians used to collect their waste, take it to a remote location on the outskirts of town and burn it. This has changed somewhat since the government introduced waste management services in conjunction with private companies. Now, waste in cities is usually put in landfills. Waste in villages and rural areas, however, is still burned.

Villagers are aware that burning waste leads to health complications. But Selina Boateng, a resident of the town of Apaah, says the situation will remain the same as long as people are unwilling or unable to pay for better waste management facilities. And, by and large, people do not like paying for these services.

While many rural areas in Ashanti do not have landfills, the city landfill sites are now filling up, according to Stephen Geyeke-Darko., operations manager for ZoomLion Ashanti Region, the largest waste management company in Ghana. The amount of waste generated in the country is also increasing as its population grows.

In the early 2000s, the Ghanaian government tried to get a waste-to-power generation project going with support from the Dutch government, but these plans never reached fruition. For now, part of the solution to Ghana’s waste management problems lies in recycling and composting. ZoomLion has plans to establish two recycling and composting plants, one in Accra and the other in Kumasi.

However, for recycling to go mainstream and become a large-scale practice, Ghana needs a stable electricity supply, unlike the current system, said Zoomlion spokesman Wireko Brobbey. Currently, the closest Ghana has to mainstream recycling is an informal system whereby shopkeepers and so-called “scavengers” collect plastic refuse to sell to plastic companies.

At the same time that recycling and composting are touted as the future of Ghana’s waste management, Ghana still continues to import paper and plastic from abroad. Almost everyone in the country of 25 million still drinks water out of plastic sachets or bottles due to water safety concerns.

(This post was amended on October 10, 2013.)

Project

A push-pull between Ghana’s residents and its department of waste management has been ongoing—trash bins have been stolen and open defecation is commonplace. A turnaround may be in the works.

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