Annie Louise Leonard an American proponent of sustainability and a critic of consumerism once wrote “there is no such thing as ‘away. When we throw anything away it must go somewhere.” Evidently so, these waste generated and disposed of ends up choking the gutters, polluting water bodies, thereby, causing more harm. We often chant ‘cleanliness is next to Godliness’ but a man can only be in good health when his environment is kept tidy and safe.
By employing the best waste disposal practices and being health-conscious, the country can attain cleanliness but unfortunately, the state of our environment requires more effort to be called clean and neat.
Waste management is an essential public service which potentially can have serious impacts on public health and environmental quality in any human settlement. For some, this popular yet less implemented 3 big Rs (reduce, re-use and recycle) had proven to be a sustainable measure to rid the environment of filth and save it from havoc and destruction.
The Sanitation Challenge in Kasoa
Ghana is one of the world’s fastest-growing economy, with a government set on attracting investment and tourism. But residents of its cities and towns have had a challenge in battling with waste. One of such is Kasoa, a town found in the Awutu Senya East District. Considered as a fastest growing town and the gateway to the Central region.
Kasoa’s gutters, streets and markets are persistently inundated with filth. Indiscriminate disposal of rubbers and plastic bottles is a common phenomenon. A common observation through the Kasoa township is that when people clean out the gutters, they leave the waste nearby and eventually find its way back into the community. Piles of rubbish sit on street corners, picked on by birds. Waste bins are left uncollected for days, sometimes weeks. After a storm, plastic bottles and rubbers awash out entering homes and taking over shoulders of the streets.
While waste management is a nationwide issue in Ghana, it’s most obvious in Kasoa, that the city generates about 3,000 to 4,000metric tonnes of waste a day. A study by the World Bank estimated that poor sanitation was costing Ghana’s economy around GHC 420 million ($290 million) each year, equivalent to 1.6% of its GDP. The study found most of these costs come from the annual premature death of 19,000 Ghanaians, largely due to poor sanitation and hygiene.
Kasoa’s sanitation challenge is a global one. According to the World Bank, Africa’s population is expected to increase to 2.5 billion people in 2050, from one billion people in 2010, and like in other rapidly developing regions, its cities are being stretched by infrastructure and resource demands.
The higher a country’s income level and rate of urbanization, the greater the amount of solid waste produced. Waste generation rates are set to more than double over the next 20 years in lower-income countries, and the cost of dealing with it will increase at least four-fold.
With limited space, resources and infrastructure to deal with increasing populations and waste generation, development organizations are calling for more education, waste reduction, and innovative recycling programs across the continent. In response, countries have adopted measures like banning plastic bags and non-biodegradable plastic. Often these measures have come at a steep price.
Adopting Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (3 Rs)
The most effective way to reduce waste is to not create it in the first place, although that is inevitable. Making a new product requires a lot of materials and energy - raw materials must be extracted from the earth, and the product must be fabricated then transported to wherever it will be sold. As a result, reduction and reuse are the most effective ways you can save natural resources, protect the environment and save money.
Old clothes could be donated to orphanage and the less privileged in community. Sharing items that one doesn’t need any more is the way to go as it helps reduce wastage. This simple yet very effective waste management method has proven to be the way to go.
It prevents pollution caused by reducing the need to harvest new raw materials, saves energy and money, reduces gas emissions that contribute to climate change, helps sustain the environment for future generations, reduces the amount of waste that will need to be recycled or sent to landfills and incinerators and allows products to be used to their fullest extent.
A future strategy must fully embrace the Integrated Solid Waste Management (ISWM) model coupled with innovative social re-engineering, to and permanent solutions to the mounting problems presented by the ever-increasing volumes of waste which appear to have overwhelmed the sector.
An intensive public education campaign could be used as an effective tool to drum home the rippling effects of indiscriminately disposing of waste and encourage the adoption of the Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. A systematic and sustained educational campaign is as well needed to make waste separation a part of the waste disposal culture at the household level.
Education authorities should develop environmental studies as a core subject of the primary school curriculum teaching children the health implications and the environmental impacts of indiscriminate waste disposal. The benefits to the society and the environment of source separation, recycling and resource recovery should be emphasised. Being in their formative years, their values may be easily influenced thereby ensuring a ‘greener’ future generation.