This rejoinder is to elaborate more while providing suggestions on the opinion piece written by Sedi Djentuh on September 21 and published on this medium with the above headline.
There has been lot of calls globally in recent times to tackle plastic waste and the effects it has on our environment especially marine lives.
Many researches have proven the devastating effects plastic waste causes on the marine environment and aquatic lives. A research conducted by the World Economic Forum revealed that about eight million metric tons of plastic get into the ocean from land based sources every year. The said amount is projected to increase by 2050.
A report by Ellen MacArthur Foundation in collaboration with the World Economic Forum 2016, also revealed that by 2050, the amount of plastics in the oceans may be more than the fish in the ocean. This is a worrying discovery, yet another climate change challenge for our generation. Our beaches are losing their beauty.
Global awareness on climate change is being picked up positively and we see the phenomenon gaining grounds all over the world. Countries are getting into collaborative efforts to combat this menace.
Recently, Ghana and Indonesia under the Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP) are to receive funding to tackle plastic waste in their respective countries. The president of the Republic of Ghana recently launched the National Plastic Action Partnership (NPAP) in respect of the later. The aim of the NPAP is to change plastic waste into value added products. Ghana has again held the flag as the role model for Africa as this partnership is the first of its kind in Africa and second in the world after Indonesia.
The president’s view of transforming plastic waste into value added products is similar to Ellen MacArthur’s idea of a circular economy which is ‘based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use and regenerating natural systems’.
We see a lot of global actions by state institutions, various stake holders and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) trying to fight plastic waste in the marine environment in the light of organizing clean up campaigns especially on beaches.
Ever since the world’s clean – up day was commemorated some more than ten years ago, various organisations have focused towards cleaning local beaches in Ghana in respect of this day.
The efforts of the Ocean Clean up should not be neglected. There is a Non-governmental Organisation based in the Netherlands that uses technology to eliminate plastics from the oceans.
The world environment day is also another global opportunity to turn our attention towards cleaning our environment and our beaches celebrated every year on the 5th of June. The theme for the world environment day 2018 was ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’.
The world Maritime day is similarly an additional prospect recognized globally which comes with a reminder for us to take care of our marine environment.
All the aforementioned days give Ghana many opportunities to pay attention to its marine environment and over the years these occasions have brought people from diverse works of life, different backgrounds and religion towards a common good, which is the cleanup of our beaches.
NGOs and their volunteers, schools and other institutions have taken up the challenge of working towards the common good of cleaning our local beaches.
To commemorate the World Clean-up Day which was marked by the ministry of sanitation to be observed in Ghana on the 21st of September 2019, Let’s Do It Ghana (an NGO in Ghana) together with other NGOs organized volunteers to clean up the Borla beach in Accra.
The celebration of the world maritime day in Ghana was marked by activities of some workers of the Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA) who embarked on a clean-up exercise at the independence square beach. The day is usually celebrated annually on the fourth Thursday of the month of September.
This year’s celebration fell on the 24th of September with the theme, ‘Empowering Women in the Maritime Industry’ and in that light, some group of women and girls from the Regional Maritime University (Maritime Ladies) took it upon themselves to clean-up the RMU beach.
Consequently in Ghana, several institutions have taken it up as a matter of their institutions policy to incorporate the elimination of plastic waste into their broader vision to eliminate plastic waste. In June this year, about three hundred and ten volunteers including employees and partners of Nestle company mobilized to get rid of plastic waste in Afia Beach in the Korle Klottey Municipality in the Greater Accra region. An online report has it that about 3.2 tons of plastic waste was collected along the shoreline on that day.
In September, Allianz Ghana an insurance company in the country organized a voluntary action to clean up beaches around Osu, Labadi and Tema in a bid to get rid of plastic wastes.
Despite all the regular cleanings of our beaches, the effects of these plastics on the ocean still seems unavoidable. Few days after the clean-ups, we still find plastics all around the sea shores.
What are we not doing right? Whether to ban or not to ban plastics is no longer an issue for debate as it has been established that we as a people benefit more than we turn to loose from the ban of plastics. What could be a long lasting solution to this global environmental problem? This paper suggests four feasible ways:
Re-formation in the idea of beach clean-up.
Throughout the year from January to December, we witness in one part of the country or another the kind action of volunteers, institutions, stakeholders in the maritime industry, contributing efforts towards eradicating plastic wastes and other solid wastes from our beaches but after a short while, the beaches seem to return to a deplorable state.
One of the reasons is because we keep using the same approach to do the clean-up. We cannot continue to do things indifferently and expect different results. The traditional method mostly used in the clean-ups is to gather the solid waste into piles in a plastic bag (most of the time we do not separate the plastics from other solid waste). These bags are left just along the shores and sometimes no follow up is done to properly dispose of them and make sure they are recycled.
The reason for this action can be blamed on the fact that it is quite expensive to take them from the shores to where they can be disposed properly and to make matters worse, most of these clean-ups are done by volunteers with limited resources to finance such a course.
The government of Ghana in line with the promising vision of the NPAP can make it a point of consideration to, on a monthly bases collect all these waste which have been gathered after a beach clean-up exercise for recycling into value added products.
Secondly, if we cannot band the use of plastics, we can limit the way we use them by being environmentally conscious. It has to start from the manufacturers of these plastics, to the regulators before going down to the consumers.
If the manufacturers can produce plastics that will be easy to recycle and friendly to the environment while still staying in business and providing jobs for people, the problem we face with plastics will be cut down to a large extent. Some of the plastics found mostly on our beaches are plastic straws, plastic spoons, cups, bowls, etc. Manufacturers can decide to innovate for the sake of our planet by producing the above items from bamboos for instance which are healthier to the environment. An example is a company called Furniture Cave in Ghana that produce items for daily use from bamboo with the aim of protecting the environment.
The regulators on the other hand who in this case is the government through the Ministry of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can step in by setting standards for the manufacturers which must pass an environmental friendly test before it is allowed into the market.
Consumers on the other hand have to reduce their dependence on plastics. We can all transform our demands towards products which are healthy to our environment. If our demands are environmentally healthy, then we will be saving the planet through our choices.
Thirdly, we can make the best out of the plastic waste we have. There is a saying ‘if life gives you lemons, make a lemonade out of them’. We can still recycle all this plastic waste around into useful products. If the president’s vision of transforming this plastic waste into useful material is closely monitored, it will not only create useful products but will also create jobs for many citizens. This sector can become an oil mine if properly monitored. It can even be exploited to the point where people will be diving down to the sea beds to retrieve plastics for recycling.
Finally, in the words of the founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, we should look at it from a circular economy. In her words; a circular economy can be explained using a circle and a straight line. In a straight line, everything (plastics for the sake of this paper) that comes to the economy falls out at the end of the line and becomes waste meanwhile, in a circle, everything (plastics) comes into the economy and goes round in the circle till it is fed back into the system for recycling. All plastic must be designed to fit into the system to be recycled or reused.
Source: Makia Gertrude holds an MA in Ports and Shipping Administration from UG, a BA in Law from the University of Buea, Cameroon. She’s an advocate of the right of children and young women. Gertrude is a writer of children’s fiction, writes on port and maritime issues as well as Spiritual growth.
LinkedIn: Gertrude Makia Mayang