Coliba buyback scheme seeks local answers to plastic waste peril

A recycling company has launched a community-based buyback centre in Kokrobite offering incentives to local people to collect plastic waste

Coliba, a leading Ghanaian plastic waste recycling company committed to protecting the environment, has joined forces with Guinness Ghana Ltd to inaugurate a permanent community buyback centre for plastic waste recovery in Kokrobite, Greater Accra.

The centre aims to offer incentives to local people to collect plastic bottles and other forms of waste such as flexible plastics for onward sale to Coliba.

Aluminium cans are also among the types of waste that will be traded through the centre.

The recycled plastics can be used in everything from new packaging to tough, water-resistant building materials.

The centre is sited on land donated by the chiefs of Kokrobite.

Coliba plastic waste buyback community centre in Kokrobite
Photos from Kokrobite by Caleb Ahinakwah for Asaase News

Organised and structured

Speaking on the sidelines of the launch at the end of last month, Coliba’s chief executive officer, Prince Kwame Agbata, told Asaase News that the company selected Kokrobite because of the high level of plastic pollution researchers have recorded there.

But the problem is also increasingly true of vulnerable communities across Ghana, he said.

“When you look at the huge amount of pollution that is happening, it is happening in the low-income areas – slum communities, coastal communities,” Agbata explained.

“These people do not have well-organised structures where waste companies can go in and pick [recycling] bins,” he said.

Coliba has set itself the goal of sensitising the public to the problem by adopting community-based solutions which are sustainable because they are based on a sound business model.

Coliba plastic waste buyback community centre in Kokrobite

Culture of recycling

Population growth and soaring consumption habits have made the plastic waste challenge more acute, but Agbata said that data gathered by Coliba shows a gradual shift towards a culture of recycling.

“From the data, we [Ghanaians] are recycling. [In the areas we studied], the rate is close to 12% because the collection of materials is building, the recycling rate is growing. But we just have to boost it up quickly.”

He argued that in places where recycling rarely takes place, access points need to be created to instil and encourage the habit.

The organisers expect that the launch of the Kokrobite centre will trigger the setting up of 200 further centres across Ghana.

Agbata said Coliba aims to collect over 5.6 tonnes of plastic waste every month, adding up a total of roughly 67 tonnes a year.

Ghana generates over 1.1 million tonnes of plastic waste every year, only 5% of which officially goes into recycling. This falls far short of the average recycling rate of under 20% across the African continent – which is in turn less than half the European Union’s target of 50% of all plastics by 2025.

South Africa is the leader in recycling on the continent, reprocessing over 46% of its plastic waste in 2018, mostly through traders working in the informal economy. Germany tops the world table, recycling 70% of all waste.

Faltering action

The Government of Ghana has pledged to make a greater effort to tackle the problem of plastic pollution and in 2018 Ghana became the first African country to join the Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP), a platform of the World Economic Forum.

GPAP aims to bring together business, civil society organisations and governments to translate policy commitments to counter plastic pollution into concrete action. However, Ghana’s government has shied away from banning the distribution of single-use plastics outright, arguing that it makes more practical sense to promote the use of less environmentally damaging forms of packaging than plastic instead.

Other African countries such as Rwanda and Kenya have introduced at least partial bans of single-use plastics.

Eight million tonnes of plastic leaks into the world’s oceans every year. Experts say that if this continues at the current rate there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050. Plastics are already polluting the food chain through fish and other marine life ingesting waste. Plastic fibres have been found in even deep-sea fish caught in the southern Atlantic Ocean.

Scientists say human being are already ingesting plastics unknowingly by eating fish that have consumed plastic waste.

Plastic waste found in marine fish

In November 2018 National Geographic reported how a dead sperm whale washed ashore in Indonesia was found to have 13lb of plastic in its stomach. It had swallowed everything from plastic bags to bottles and flip-flops floating in the water.

Caleb Ahinakwah

* Asaase Radio will soon be launching a campaign against the spread of plastic waste. Keep an eye on our social media handles for more details.

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