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.)