Recycling plastic to solve perennial flooding

Ortis Yankey, Accra Community Manager
Accra, 23 December 2015

Issues of climate change have featured predominantly in world global discussions over the years. According to the World Bank Development Report 2010, Development and Climate, the effect of climate change will be inescapable, and developing countries will bear the brunt of climate change. Forums such as the Kyoto Protocol, which ended in 2012, and the Paris COP 21 provide platforms for world leaders to discuss climate change policies and ways of mitigating its effect.

The city of Accra has been bearing the brunt of climate change over the years. Perennial flooding in Accra is a common phenomenon leading to the loss of lives and properties. In June 2015, flood and fire disaster in Accra led to the tragic death of over 200 people and the loss of millions worth of properties. The occurrence of perennial flooding is attributed to small sizes of drainage systems, which are mostly choked with plastic waste and other garbage. Inappropriate disposal of plastic materials on streets, instead of in waste bins, is very common. And due to the effect of climate change, Accra has been experiencing torrential rains, which tend to sweep these plastic wastes into drainage systems, impeding the free flow of rain water and causing flooding.

As a policy tool, the Accra Composite and Recycling Plant (ACARP), a public-private partnership with the government of Ghana, has been at the forefront of collecting the Accra municipal waste and plastic materials and recycling them to produce high quality organic composite for agriculture purposes. Since its establishment in 2012, it has been collecting, sorting, processing, and recycling solid and liquid waste to produce organic manure for agronomic purposes. It also produces high quality pelletized plastics as raw materials to some local industries in Ghana for further production into various plastic items. In addition, other recovered materials such as textiles, packaging materials and other highly combustible materials are also used for the manufacturing of high calorific burning materials for specific industries. It also exports some of the recycled materials to China and Malaysia for further production into textiles, film, and carpets.

On average, approximately 600 metric tons per day of municipal solid waste in Accra is sent to the plant to be recycled. This constitutes approximately 50 percent of the total waste collected in Accra, which would have otherwise ended up on landfill sites and drainage systems due to improper disposal. The company’s activities of recycling solid, liquid, and plastic waste contribute significantly to reducing excessive greenhouse gas emissions, while at the same time helping in reducing periodic flooding. The company is also the first in Ghana to qualify for the Clean Development Mechanism(CDM) claims on carbon credits, which is one of the flexible adaption policies adopted under the Kyoto Protocol. This provides an alternative source of revenue for the company to trade carbon credit. In no small way, the firm is contributing significantly in reducing the overhaul of plastic waste that engulfs our streets.

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