Waste In Accra

by Ernest Armah

Accra is having a waste management challenge. And once again, concerned Ghanaians are on the neck on the Mayor of Accra, Mr Alfred Okoe Vanderpuye. The trajectory of their blame is not misplaced at all. After all, uneasy is the head that wears the crown.

There are two main ways of managing waste, specifically solid waste which are landfills and incineration. I think the recent addition is recycling. In the past, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly utilized significantly the method of landfills to manage solid waste in the metropolis. A huge square-like trench is dug which becomes the repository of collected waste. It’s a mass burial of waste, to put it simply.

The communities with these landfill sites are no longer tolerant of the practice. Some of landfill sites have filled up predisposing the communities to serious health hazards, not to talk of the prevailing foul stench. Accra’s waste management challenge is similar to what happened in the united states in the 1980s where an emergency situation was aroused as a result of filled-up landfill sites and fear of groundwater contamination caused many communities to prevent the operation of new sites on their land. The situation deteriorated in 1987 as waste trucks spent weeks searching for a site that would accept its cargo of waste.

Ever since waste management in the metropolis took on a public-private partnership stance, collection of waste has become almost comprehensive. These zoomlion guys would heap waste in the container at the back of their trucks in a “tower of Babel” fashion. Well, the first phase of the waste management challenge which is collection has been satisfactory. Now disposal is the headache.

The contents in a typical waste in Ghana include food, paper, glass, plastic, metal scraps, dead animals, ‘those things in the black polythene’, etc. Incineration would’ve been a good method except for the fact that Accra has a lot of plastic waste. If plastics are burnt, they become air pollutants in the form of hydrocardons and nitrogen oxides. Also, plastics are immune to biological decomposition and thus remain in their original state for several years even when buried.

The Accra Sanitary Sewer &
Stormwater Drainage Alleviation Project is a step in the right direction. It shows how committed the country’s leadership is in addressing the sanitation crisis of the capital. However,  technology alone wouldn’t be an adequate approach to tackling the sanitation problems in Accra. I have no option but to reiterate the much hackneyed point – attitudinal change. Even how some Ghanaians combine waste in their homes is problematic. The AMA should be firm and fair in ensuring that there’s attitudinal change.