One of the destructive environmental challenges on the earth that destroys its natural resources at an alarming rate in this 21st Century is plastic pollution. There is a pervasive use of plastics for domestic, industrial and commercial activities. It is estimated that every year, on a global scale, humans generate over 350 million tons of plastic waste. It is estimated that one-third of the global plastic wastes is from the packaging of products. These plastics are very difficult to decompose and ends up being haunting ghosts to the lives of humans. The decomposition lifespan of many of these plastics range from 50 years to 600 years! Unfortunately, many of these plastics end up being very destructive, destroying our rivers, oceans, forests and biological diversities. The health consequences of plastic wastes to human and animal life cannot be underestimated. The inhalation of burnt plastic wastes causes various respiratory diseases that take away several lives at skyrocketing rates than the deadly HIV/AIDS. Direct and indirect ingestion of plastic pollutants in water bodies results in slow strangulation, Amoebic Dysentery, Giardiasis and other life-taking diseases. Due to the devastating nature of plastic pollution, many international bodies, conservation agencies and governments are thinking of productive strategies in arresting it.
The canker of plastic pollution is so great in developing countries like Ghana. Aside from the locally generated plastic pollutants, Ghana imports over 100, 000 metric tons of plastic products every year. Many of these plastics become destructive pollutants in the Ghanaian environment. Ghana has to strategize ways of arresting the canker of plastic pollution. One way is to sensitize the Ghanaian populace of the negative health implications of plastics through environmental education programs. The mass media should be tasked by the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation to carry out plastic pollution sensitization and education programs. The government must cut down the importation of plastic products, while banning completely, plastic products with a high degree of antioxidants. Massive campaign on the use of biodegradable materials as alternatives to plastics must be intensified. Food processing companies and fast food vendors must be engaged in dialogues to start using biodegradable or organic packages for their foods. Great lessons can be learned from the biodegradable leaf plates used in India now. Food scientists and engineers must be assisted through funding to develop and produce sustainable locally manufactured biodegradable packages for their foods.
Another innovate way of combating plastic pollution in Ghana is to encourage the recycling of plastic wastes into creative and usable products. This would transform the deadly plastic pollutants into economic gains for the country. Technological departments in the Ghanaian educational institutions as well as interested companies must be assisted to engage in intensive recycling projects of plastics. Lessons can be learned from the EcoDomum Company in Mexico that engages in the production of housing products through the recycling of plastics. Artists who engage in installation art and other innovative artistic projects using plastic wastes must be assisted through government funding. In addition, the government of Ghana must mandatorily instruct companies that generate many of the plastic pollutants to find ways of recycling their plastic wastes or risk being out of business. Taxes on the importation of machinery for the recycling of plastics must be scrubbed off or reduced to encourage food and beverage producing companies in Ghana to recycle their plastic wastes.
The polluter pay policy must be enhanced through the raising of the monetary penalty or fines, especially for plastic wastes. This would increase the resilient nature of government laws on plastic pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency must employ sanitary inspectors tasked with the responsibility of reporting persons, households or industries that pollute the environment through their plastic wastes and inappropriately dispose their plastic wastes so that they will be prosecuted. The government should set a law as part of the environmental laws to arrest and prosecute all persons who indiscriminately throw plastic wastes onto Ghanaian streets, gutters and so forth. The government of Ghana must collaborate with the traditional authorities in the various Ghanaian communities and task them with the responsibility of setting and enforcing environmental by-laws to combat the plastic pollution menace in their respective jurisdictions. Some countries are now funding scientific studies aimed at generating Genetically Modified Organisms that can decompose plastics at relatively faster time spans, within weeks by feeding on them. Ghana can think of funding similar studies, all aimed at fighting the canker of plastic pollution.
This is the time that Ghana must hold hands with the world in fighting against the plastic pollution canker. The government of Ghana must reduce the importation of plastics; promote the use of biodegradable materials, especially as packages for products, while funding projects for recycling plastic wastes and generation of GMO’s for consuming plastic wastes. Also, the government must beef up environmental laws and prosecution related to plastic pollution while intensifying environmental education on the hazards associated with plastic pollution. These strategies would help save the Ghanaian environment, save the earth which is the home and the everlasting treasure for all biological species.