Survey by UNDP Accelerator Lab in Ghana on recycling has revealed that, 41 percent of Ghanaians segregate their waste, but the majority do not, mainly because they do not know who will collect the segregated waste.

According to the survey, only 10 percent of respondents said they would only recycle if they were paid to, but many suggested incentives including pay-back or points-redemption, to cultivate and sustain segregation habits.

The survey revealed that, 50 percent of those who segregate waste have it collected by waste pick-up companies. 32 percent go to recycling facilities, and the rest rely mainly on informal-sector waste collectors. “Zoomlion (Ghana) Limited was most often mentioned for waste pick-up. SME’s, including Sesa Recycling, Coliba, Jekora Ventures and Nwura were also mentioned. There are huge quantities of catering waste (plastic bottles and polystyrene containers) generated at large social events in Ghana, particularly funerals. Several catering businesses called for practical support to recycle this waste”, it added.

When asked which recyclable materials are generated daily, 36 percent said plastics, but many would like to segregate paper, glass, electronics, and food, suggesting opportunities for green entrepreneurs.

It noted that, those who segregate support different economic activities including food-processing and the creative sector, saying “Some give glass waste to craft companies who produce traditional glass bead jewelry; compost food waste into manure for farming; sell plastic bottles to juice-makers who bottle sobolo (a hibiscus-based drink); and donate plastic waste to youth-led recycling schemes for making school bags”.

In the informal sector, respondents highlighted the significant contribution the sector waste-pickers and collectors make to recycling, but said, they should be organized better and supported, given the potential for recycling to create jobs and stimulate local economies. However, some pointed to low incomes from waste-picking (an average of 50 pesewas from selling 1 kg of plastics) as a disincentive.

To raise awareness effectively, many respondents suggested using more Ghanaian languages and less English in public campaigns, and tailoring communication to suit the different levels of environmental awareness in communities.

This the survey said, could be a combination of repeated public education campaigns to get basic messages across, and gradual education of communities about more complex concepts, for example developing a broader appreciation of the benefits of recycling.

Most of the respondents (405) live in the Greater Accra (67%) and Ashanti regions (11%) of Ghana said, their communities are badly affected by plastic litter to at least some extent.

The next step

According to the survey, the insights gained have informed support for grassroots innovation projects, with grants from the AccLab Ghana COVID-19 Innovation Challenge and the initiatives include an organization of waste pickers in Ashanti region to collect waste for recycling using mobile phone (USSD) systems and providing them with social insurance.

“In the Northern region, supporting efforts to transform agricultural waste such as rice husks into smokeless briquettes as an alternative to conventional charcoal and firewood. Supporting door-to-door collection of plastic waste in the Ga West Municipal District of Greater Accra, using a mobile-phone (SMS) system”, it said.

Communities are also being incentivized to segregate plastic in exchange for groceries and PPEs.