Sunday, July 5, 2015

Let’s redefine the concept of waste — Dr Yirenya-Tawiah

By Edmund Smith-Asante, ACCRA
A lecturer at the Institute of Environment and Sanitation Studies, University of Ghana, Legon, Dr Dzidzo Yirenya-Tawiah, has called for a redefinition of what is classified as waste in the country.
She said what was most times referred to as waste had potential economic, environmental and public health value if managed properly.

“Based on the concept of waste as something that must be discarded, it will be necessary to re-look at the definition of waste as a nation, emphasising the fact that waste is a resource, with potential economic, environmental and public health value if managed properly; and would yield dividends to both the nation and the residents,” she stressed.

Dr Yirenya-Tawiah was speaking on the topic, “Household and Domestic Waste” last Monday at the start of a three-day Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (GAAS) Public Forum on the theme “Waste Management”.

She noted that Ghana’s waste management was mainly consigned to waste collection and dumping, thus missing out on the benefits of what was considered as waste.

Constraints of waste management
Attributing the poor sanitation situation in the country to the inadequate waste management system being practised, she stated, “Household waste and industrial waste in Ghana need a better management option than we are practising now, and this must be geared towards waste recovery.”
She cited other causes of the country’s sanitation woes as economic, infrastructural, socio-cultural and general inefficiency.

Budgetary constraints in the daily running and maintenance of waste trucks, improper town planning, limited roads and access, uncertainty of who is responsible for collecting whose waste, employment of less skilled staff and school dropouts who are least respected among other factors, “leave waste issues to be decided on by political expediency rather than sound science”, she bemoaned.

Dr Yirenya-Tawiah, however, noted that in spite of the waste management challenges, significant improvements had been chalked up with the involvement of the private sector and the role of operators of refuse taxis/informal waste collectors (kaya borla) who went about market places as well as hard-to-reach areas not serviced by the formal waste collectors to collect waste. This, she said, also created employment for unemployed youth.

While praising the metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) for also injecting more of their funds into waste management in the wake of extensive media coverage and the work by non-governmental organisations in waste management, she called for more efforts to change the prevailing situation.

These she listed as the redefining of the concept of waste and waste management for the Ghanaian, education of the general public through various platforms, the expansion of traditionally inherent practices such as waste recovery, reuse and recycling as is practised by scavengers.

She, however, called for further investment in infrastructure such as waste recycling plants, and for waste amenity sites to be in place.

“We need to also introduce innovations to waste management and we term this the camp site model,” she said, explaining it as a proposed model aimed at expanding the public private partnership in the maintenance of public dump sites.

“Source separation of waste must be encouraged, as this holds the key to the future of waste management in Ghana,” Dr Yirenya-Tawiah urged.

This story was first published by the Daily Graphic on June 12, 2015

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