SEATTLE, Washington — Ghanaians generate over a million tons of plastic waste each year and only between 2% and 5% of this plastic waste gets properly recycled. Many places within the country lack the infrastructure to safely dispose of plastic waste. The severity of the problems is indicated by the fact that Ghana ranks as one of the top 10 most polluted countries in the world. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has emphasized the urgent need for waste management and plastic pollution in Ghana to be addressed.
Over 2.58 million metric tonnes of raw plastic is imported into Ghana each year and 73% of this ends up as waste. With only up to 5% of plastic waste being recycled, the rest accumulates in the environment or ends up in landfills and nearly 30% ends up in the ocean. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates that plastic bottles that end up in the ocean can take up to 450 years to biodegrade. The plastic waste that ends up in landfills contributes to the contamination of groundwater and air pollution. In addition, undisposed plastics can amass in drains and lead to flooding. The stagnant water from pollution-induced flooding facilitates the outbreak of waterborne diseases like malaria and cholera among vulnerable people living in highly polluted areas. Ghanaians also resort to burning their undisposed plastic waste, which releases airborne toxins.