The challenges of waste management in Ghana: EPA’s perspective

epa_1Waste management has become one of the biggest challenges confronting developing countries, including Ghana. Increased population growth and rapid urbanisation have resulted in increased generation of volumes of waste in our cities.

Within a period of fifteen years, Accra has grown very rapidly with a population of about 5 million inhabitants and has an annual growth rate of 4% making it one of the fastest growing metropolises in Africa. This phenomenal growth has contributed to the myriad of municipal waste management problems facing the country.

Current state of waste management

2800 metric tons of municipal solid waste is generated per day in Accra. Approximately 2,200 tons is collected leaving backlog of 600 tons in open drains, and water bodies which results in flooding during the raining season.

Almost 97% of all public owned and public managed sewage/faecal treatment plants are non-functional (Accra, Tema).

Out of the 35 institutional treatment plants in the country, only 4 are operational. This implies that only 1% of the sewage generated in the country is treated.

23% of households practice open defecation.

In terms of basic sanitation, it is reported 54% of households use shared facilities which is generally unhygienic, 13% have access to unimproved toilets.

Health threatening pan latrines still exist in our cities and towns.

Challenges of solid waste management

  • Negative attitudes of the general public towards the environment in general;
  • Inadequate waste infrastructure;
  • Inadequate equipment and operational funds to support waste management activities;
  • Poor planning for waste management programme;
  • Unplanned human settlement;
  • Lack of political will to enforce bye laws on sanitation and building regulations by the MMDAs

Challenges of liquid waste management

  • About 80-100 cesspit emptiers dislodge liquid waste directly into the sea at Lavender Hill.
  • Uncontrolled human settlement leading to slum formation.
  • Lack of adequate sanitation facilities provision.
  • Lack of maintenance culture.
  • Lack of adequate coverage of central sewage system as well as in ability to connect to the central sewage system.
  • Rapid population growth with limited information for national planning.

The practice of emptying cesspit emptiers directly into the ocean poses both environmental and health impacts some of these includes: Stench, Water pollution, Disincentive to tourists, Loss of aquatic life and Health Impacts.

The 1992 C0nstitution of Ghana section 41(k) spells out clearly that, it shall be the duty of every citizen to protect and safe the environment.

Criminal Code, 1960 (Act 29); ‘provides that whoever places or permits any refuse, or rubbish, or any offensive or otherwise unwholesome matter, on any street, yard, enclosure, or open space, except at such places as may be set apart by the local authority or health officer for that purpose commits a punishable offence’.

Nexus between waste management and environmental protection

Today’s waste management challenges are systemic in character and cannot be tackled in isolation. Waste management is a key sector with regard to greenhouse gas emissions, how we use natural resources and dispose of wastes also links directly to several health aspects and contribute to the environmental burden of disease.

Ultimately, environmental pressures that result from improper waste management are linked with people’s well-being. Access to clean water and air are paramount to our health, but is often undermined by pollution and waste that result from human activities.

EPA’s intervention in waste management

  • Guidelines for the Management of Health Care and Veterinary Waste in Ghana, July 2002
  • Ghana Landfill Guidelines, July 2002
  • Manual for the Preparation of District Waste Management Plans in Ghana, July 2002
  • Guiding Various Waste Management (Facilities) projects through the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Process
  • Field visit with members of the Parliamentary select committee on Environment Science and technology to some selected dump sites in Accra on 27th July 2011.
  • EPA took Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) to court and a restraining order was issued against AMA from dumping into the sea at Lavendar Hill.
  • Landfill Site Development, the Agency facilitated the establishment of the Tema-Kpone Landfill Site. Currently that is the only engineered landfill in the Greater Accra Region.
  • Nsumia Dumpsite, Currently being developed. This site when completed could serve the western part of Accra.
  • The Closure and Decommissioning of Some Dumpsites. A few dumpsites have been closed e.g., Oblogo, Sarbah, Anyaa dumpsites and Teshie Compost Plant.
  • Training of some selected MMDAs on the use of various guidelines and in the preparation of their waste management plans.
  • National Source Waste Segregation Programme. The rationale behind this is to improve efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery through the minimization of the amount of waste being landfilled. Over 56 institutions within the ministerial enclave have been supplied with 3 types of 240litre dustbins for the segregation of their office waste.

Way forward

  • Intensify public awareness and education
  • Political commitment
  • Segregate waste at Source
  • Planning units should be set up within the waste management
  • Promotion of waste treatment and material recovery i.e. waste reduction, waste reuse and waste recycling.
  • Incineration and waste to energy technology
  • Composting
  • Enforcement of laws and bye-laws
  • Attitudinal change
  • Financial instrument- e.g., polluters pay principle
  • Recruit more technical personnel for effective delivery of service
  • Government must invest in waste management because waste is a resource.
  • Ban-some categories of plastics.
  • Better remuneration for workers in the waste management sector
  • Provision of an engineered landfill site
  • Acquisition of land and construction of sanitary landfill and transfer stations
  • Encourage private sector participation in waste management
  • Adaption of biogas technology as alternative to traditional septic tanks
  • Waste Management Companies should equip themselves to collect Segregated waste separately at different times and in different vehicles to avoid contamination.

Let’s get started

Reducing waste matters, it protects the environment, protects our health and can save us money! Get started reducing your household waste today with these simple steps:

Ditch all the disposables – We can reduce the amount waste we produce just by replacing disposable items with reusable items such as shopping bags, food containers, baskets, paper boxes, water bottles and reusable cloths instead of paper towel.

Pay attention to packaging – The more packaging we avoid buying, the less waste we produce. Buy in bulk instead of individually packaged items, choose items with little to no packaging and of course if you have to bring home packaging make sure you recycle it whenever possible.

Pass it on and encourage others to make responsible decisions in waste reduction!

Try composting at home.

The negative impact of waste on the environment and on people’s health is of on-going concern. Poor waste management places significant and at times overwhelming pressure on the capability of municipalities to manage waste.

In order to address this issue, waste management strategies that are advanced, yet easy to implement and have measurable outcomes, are required.

The author is a deputy Director/Built environment at EPA



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