African markets

West Africa is drowning in plastic – African Markets

The sewers of Accra, the capital of Ghana, are so full of waste, especially plastic bottles, that every rainy season causes massive flooding. In 2015 there was a flood so intense that more than 200 people died.

A government report, written after the flooding, identified that drainage (sewage) was poor and that floating rubbish, mainly plastic bottles, contributed to the severity of the disaster.

After the publication of this report, calls were made to ban certain types of plastic in Ghana.

the solutions

The region’s largest consumer companies have held a series of meetings, through the Ghana Industrialists Association, to showcase their own solutions. The end result of these meetings was FLU (The Ghana Recycling Initiative by Private Enterprises), launched in 2017 with the mission to:

“Implement recycling and second-life solutions that reduce the impacts of post-consumer plastic waste on the environment”.

Among the first activities of GRIPE were discussing whether used plastic could be turned into building material and organizing events to buy used plastic, where Ghanaians could sell the waste to recycling companies.

The initial contract between GRIPE members, dated November 2017, recognized the “tremendous” contribution that the private sector could make to waste collection in Ghana. But he also touted the unrivaled benefits of plastic packaging:

“Lightweight, easy to mold, strong…affordable”.

From the start, GRIP gained significant endorsement. Two of its members, Diageo and Danone, have appealed to contacts in the UK government for support, according to emails released following a freedom of information request.

The Diageo executive said Ghana is “a model for more collaboration on plastics in key African markets”, while a Danone representative sought to pique the interest of the department that manages the company’s budget. British foreign aid.

The lobby has paid. Penny Mordaunt, then UK Secretary of State for International Development, mentioned the FLU and its parent body, the Ghana Industrial Association, at an event in Westminster in March 2019, before an audience of big names including Sir David Attenborough, TV presenter and great advocate. of the environment.

Thanks to this support, O GRIPE launched a brilliant marketing campaign, including animated films with the character of Tia Litta and a Twitter account, promoting sanitation management and recycling.

A reality

There are limited restrictions on certain types of plastic in Ghana, but the FLU’s lobby not to phase out all types of plastic has been largely successful.

At an event on plastic recycling, Ghana’s Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Kwaku Afriyie, hailed the efforts of the private sector.

“This whole recycling business is really a private industry initiative and the government has no intention of setting up parallel systems to compete with them.”

Says Afriyie, speaking out against bans and in favor of the circular economy, saying plastic can be reused many times over if disposed of correctly.

“We are fully committed to contributing to building a circular economy and reducing plastic waste in Ghana; to do this, we need the collaboration of the sector through associations such as GRIPE”.

Unilever said in a statement.

A company spokeswoman said Nestlé’s collaboration with GRIPE complements its other activities in Ghana, including collecting 5,000 tonnes of plastic for recycling since 2019.

But will it actually work? Allowing multinationals to take the lead in cleaning up plastic pollution may seem reasonable for Ghana, where gross domestic product is lower than Nestlé’s annual sales, but…

But the reality is that the funding the companies have poured into the initiative makes any real progress next to impossible. The 2017 contract that created GRIPE, obtained through a freedom of information request in the UK, set the financial contribution of each member at just 45,000 Ghanaian cedis, or about $5,800, each year.

To put these numbers into context, FLU costs Unilever (Nestlé) less than 0.0001% of its $7.5 billion annual marketing budget.

On the other hand, plastic sales are on the rise as consumers in one of the region’s fastest growing economies seek the comparative luxury of bottled beverages.


Leaving the cleaning of plastic waste to the companies that produce it is not a viable solution, it is only with a real state infrastructure that a real solution can be obtained. Without the necessary state force to deal with the waste, plastics will continue to pour into Ghana’s rivers and seas.

Garbage is a problem of social mentalities, resulting from poverty and lack of adequate living conditions, plastic waste being just one example. Ghana, like most African countries, is changing. It has abandoned traditional habits and is importing habits from Europe and the United States, where multinational corporations are spreading the gospel of consumer culture around the world.

“We’re becoming more disposable, we’re becoming more like the West.”

Said Kwabena Biritwum, an official with the Ghana Environmental Protection Agency. And this is the African reality, not just that of Ghana.

In fact, Africa remains the dustbin of the West and if Africans do not realize this reality and change their mindset, no matter how “green” the continent becomes, Africa will never be able to evolve. at the top level.

What do you think of this situation? Should we put an end to plastic once and for all? We want to know your opinion, do not hesitate to comment and if you liked the article, share and give a “like/like”.

See also:

Earth Day turn off the plastic tap

Picture: © 2022 Nipah Dennis