The year 2020 aside, Ghana has been one of the world’s fastest growing economies in the past five years, with an ever-expanding population and rising levels of affluence, especially in its major cities. This growth has brought with it a scourge of modern development: surging levels of plastic waste.
Ghana’s population of 31m generates an estimated 1.1m tonnes of such waste each year. This might be manageable in a country with well-developed plastics management systems and infrastructure, but in Ghana these are lacking. According to available data, just under half of the plastic waste generated is collected, but only about 5% is recycled. The majority is mismanaged in one way or another, ending up in landfill, in coastal waters or burned.
To their credit, the country’s plastics management stakeholders—including central and municipal governments, large and small businesses, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs)—recognise the scale of the problem and are taking concerted action to address it. Their commitment helps to explain why Ghana is its region’s highest scoring country in the Plastics Management Index (PMI), ranking 15th of 25 countries overall. Among lower-middle income countries, Ghana ranks higher than all but Vietnam. (See this programme’s flagship report for a detailed discussion of the PMI’s global findings.)
The steps that Ghana’s stakeholders have taken thus far to tackle plastic waste are commendable. But the challenge of translating good intentions and policies into action—and ultimately reducing plastic leakage and creating greater circularity—is formidable. The government and other stakeholders must achieve a considerable amount of capacity-building and behaviour change before such outcomes become realistic.