Monday, April 25, 2016

Zoomlion Foundation initiates School Recycling

By Edmund Smith-Asante
Clean source separated water sachet bags

The plastics industry in Ghana has lately come under attack and faces extinction because of the massive pollution of the environment by its products. 

So instead of plastics becoming a blessing, their usage has resulted in a nightmarish experience for the country, with city authorities still grappling with how best to deal with the plastics menace.

One of the policies that have emanated from the intense debate on whether or not to continue using plastics as a nation is the insistence on the use of Oxo-biodegradable material in the manufacture of plastic used as carrier bags. 

The catch here is that if that fails to effectively deal with the menace, then government would have no other option than to go the way of Rwanda - ban the use of plastics. 

But plastics are beneficial because they are handy, durable, waterproof, convenient and very cheap. In Ghana, many companies use plastics to manufacture an incredible number of products we use every day, such as waste bins, plastic bowls, cups and utensils, ‘takeaway’ packs, trash bags, children's toys, pet bottles and many others. 

It is the management of the waste from their use that has become a hydra. Plastic pollution adversely affects humans, wildlife, river bodies and causes floods when it rains. Aquatic life is also threatened by plastic waste in the sea, streams, lakes, lagoons and rivers and scientists have predicted that very soon there will be more plastics in the sea than fishes.

Landfills have also been engulfed with huge plastic waste and district assemblies are running out of landfill sites. The burning of plastic waste is not an option, since that creates toxic fumes in the atmosphere which is dangerous when inhaled.  

The problem has been compounded by indiscriminate littering, defaecation in black polythene bags and the lack of separation of organic waste from inorganic ones at source. 

Recycling project
It is to exhibit its commitment to managing plastic waste and promoting recycling that the Zoomlion Foundation under the leadership of its National Coordinator, Mrs Sarah Kyei, has initiated a “School Recycling Project”. 

The project motivates school kids to source separate plastic waste in schools and sell it to recycling companies. The initiative is intended to prevent indiscriminate littering of plastic waste on school compounds, protect the environment, save space in landfill sites and recycle plastic products into new products.

The simple model for the “School Recycling Project”, which involves the use of inexpensive transparent plastic sacks, was developed by a Programme Officer at the Zoomlion Foundation, Mr Thomas N. Korley, and was piloted in seven basic schools in the Western Region in January 2015. 

The initial pilot programme recovered 271kg of clean source-separated sachet water bags between January and April 2015. 

Programme expansion
The programme was extended to 12 more schools and is still expanding in the region. The second pilot was conducted in the Upper West Region by the Head of Environmental Sanitation at Zoomlion, Mr Peter Claver Dery, in September 2015. 

Mrs Kyei said the Zoomkids clubs in the Upper West Region, numbering 800 from 20 schools, had also been sensitised to the need to separate sachet water plastics from other waste.

“So far, the Zoomlion Foundation has supported 15 schools in the Western Region and 20 schools in the Upper West Region to source-separate their plastic waste. This involves some 1,400 Zoomkids club members and 70 Zoomkids patrons.” 

Cost of project
Mrs Kyei said by the end of December 2015, the foundation had spent GH¢50,000 to support the project, working through a team of 10 Regional Coordinators comprising Regional Heads of Environmental Sanitation (HoES) and Regional Environmental Sanitation Supervisors (RESS).

The foundation also supported the purchase of storage sacks, the creation of storage facilities for plastic sachets, transportation of waste to recycling companies as well as the cost of monitoring and evaluation of the “School Recycling Project”. 

Cash rewards
“So far, more than five tonnes of plastic waste have been recovered from schools in the Western and Upper West regions. The project has also assisted children avoid to engaging in littering and also earn some cash for sanitation improvement in their schools. School pupils have largely stopped littering on school compound thus keeping their environment clean. 

“The excitement generated by the project among school kids is enormous, since there is competition among the schoolchildren as to who would be able to bring substantial amount of sachet water bags for source separation in order to generate more income.” 

Benefits of source separation
She also indicated that the source separation programme was promoting productive learning and a healthy environment in Ghanaian schools. “Before this programme was initiated, it was observed that the major environmental challenge in schools in the country was indiscriminate disposal of plastic waste on the school compounds.” 

“Also, most of the schools do not have adequate waste disposal facilities.  The schools use part of the school compound as refuse dump where they periodically burn their solid waste. In the cause of burning, the smoke enters the classrooms and distracts teaching and learning,” Mrs Kyei noted.

This story was first published by the Daily Graphic on April 25, 2016

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