Africa and Sub-Saharan African Environmental IssuesEnvironmental IssuesFeaturesRecycling

Plastic Waste in Africa – The rubber gold in the West.

King Mawuli Apreku

Plastic waste management is huge challenge in Africa. Of course, there are a few countries that are doing considerably well in this regard. Same cannot be said for Ghana. According to Coastal Watch, it is estimated that Ghana generates approximately 1.1 million tons of plastic waste per year and approximately 5% of it is collected for recycling.

Africa waste management outlook report indicates that more than 90% of waste generated in Africa is disposed at uncontrolled dumpsites and landfills, often associated with open burning.  The report further states that only 4% of solid waste is recycled. Meanwhile, 70 to 80% of such waste is recyclable.

Interestingly, there are so much economic prospects for proper management of plastic that can be realised when proper systems are built. There is a lot of resource pumped into collecting waste and nothing is done to recoup those resources from the waste.

In an article published by the European Environment Agency 2019, Europe exports plastic waste to other non- European countries like in Asia. This is one means Europe deals with insufficient recycling capacities in the EU. They recognise the need for policy making, business and other actors to build a more robust and circular economy for plastic in Europe. Imagine if Africa can do same(

EEA further projects that annual global plastic production has increased from 2million to 380 million tons since 1950 and is expected to double by 2035 and quadruple by 2050. However, Europe recognises the lack of capacity to manage the growing amount of plastic waste in circular and sustainable ways.

Plastic waste serves many purposes. Norway and Switzerland demand plastic amounted to 51 million tonnes divided among the packaging, building and construction, automotive, electronic sectors and others like sports, household and agric. If African countries are able to harness their plastic waste one can imagine the amount of revenue that can be generated for other projects to serve the benefit of the already impoverished masses.

Nonetheless, disposal should be the least of resort when it comes to waste management. The hierarchy proposed by coastal watch is as follows.

Erik Zimmerman says resources are not, they become. It is very imperative that we realise the gold in plastic just as Europe has and begin to mine gold from our plastic waste. 

By. King Mawuli Apreku



Coastal watch facilitators handbook, 2022.


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