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Waste to Wealth: Recycling in Schools to Eliminate the Plastic Waste Menace in Ghana

Summary

By: Kofi Asare Anyemedu and Christy Ahenkora-Banya, UNDP Ghana

The Recycling in Schools Project, an initiative of Nestlé Ghana, the Swiss Embassy, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD), and the United Nations Global Compact Network in Ghana was launched for five weeks in three selected educational institutions in Accra: the Calvary Presbyterian Chorkor Primary School, Wilberforce Primary 1 School and the Association International School. These schools were used for the pilot project because they represent a mix of low and middle income schools and are situated in deprived and affluent communities…

An enormous amount of solid waste, in particular plastic waste, is generated throughout the world and managing this waste in a sustainable way is a crucial problem for both developing as well as developed countries. Many municipalities, cities and towns continue to grapple with the problem of solid waste management and Accra, Ghana is no exception.

Due to increased urbanization and changing lifestyles, there is a considerable amount of waste generated in Accra which has led to indiscriminate littering in the city and its surrounding areas. Empty water bottles and other plastic waste in particular are a major nuisance in Accra and can be seen on the streets and in gutters across the city. Their improper disposal leads to increasing sanitation issues, damage to the environment and blocked drains, which contributes to stagnant water accumulation and negative health effects such as malaria caused by the breeding of mosquitoes in unsanitary conditions.

The objective of the pilot project was to educate primary school children regarding the environment, proper plastic waste disposal and health and sanitation issues relating to plastic waste. By involving the various stakeholders directly, each sector encouraged the others to remain motivated and to share the responsibility of addressing the plastic waste menace. By increasing awareness of plastic waste disposal, the project encouraged behavioral change in primary school children, including encouraging them to bring their empty water bottles into the school to dispose of at collection points rather than on the streets and in the gutters. The plastic waste that was collected in the schools was then collected by Blowplast Company, Ghana’s foremost company promoting and encouraging waste reduction, reuse and recycling. The company in turn gave the schools donations for the collected materials, which the schools then used to purchase equipment and materials, hereby further encouraging the children by physically rewarding them for their efforts.

The project also informed the parents and other stakeholders of the benefits of proper plastic waste disposal and the consequences of improper disposal, thereby encouraging them to also participate. By combining education and reward, the project sought to promote long-term behavioral change and an understanding of the issues related to plastic waste disposal.

Following the successful pilot phase, the United Nations Global Compact Ghana Network, of which Nestle Ghana Ltd is a member, has decided to adopt the project and scale it up to other schools. This would be in line with Global Compact Principles 7, 8 and 9 which do not only emphasize environmental responsibility, but also encourage diffusion of environmentally sound technologies. The project has now been renamed to “Waste to Wealth: Recycling in Schools” and is expected to be rolled out with the objective of grooming a generation who are conscious of the menace of plastic waste and can develop an understanding of the need for a precautionary approach to the management of our environment. The goals include:

Increasing the awareness of the benefits of recycling through education by highlighting the potential rewards in addition to those issues connected with health, sanitation and environment; Improving disposal practices of school-children (with a vision to indirectly influencing their families, non school-going children and other members of their communities); Increasing the amount of properly disposed plastic waste (to be used for recycling); Creating a beneficial program to ensure its sustainability; and Developing in young people the desire to recycle not just plastics, but eventually any waste item that can be recycled.

The Ghana Network has recorded a documentary to be used for advocacy as well as a tool to solicit support for the project’s expansion. This documentary is expected to be run at a formal launching of the project in October 2010.

For more information, please contact Kofi Asare-Anyemedu, UNDP Ghana.