Waste to wages: technology is a game changer in Ghana’s fight against plastic pollution

Published
04 Jan 2021

Drains, illegal dumps and beaches are choked with discarded bottles and plastic packaging, but waste pickers are making an impact. A new multistakeholder pilot aims to increase visibility within the supply chain and bring benefits to people, companies and the environment.

The impact.

The race to recycle is gaining momentum in Ghana.

Throughout the West African country, informal workers known as waste pickers clean up communities and natural areas. Their work is vital, but the country has big plans to improve conditions in the industry and modernize. A pilot project between the World Economic Forum, the Global Plastic Action Partnership and technology giant SAP is creating a cohesive group of more than 2,000 waste pickers and measuring the quantities and types of plastic that they collect. This data is then analysed alongside the prices that are paid throughout the value chain by buyers in Ghana and internationally.

By bringing transparency to the value chain, the project will benefit all stakeholders. Socially responsible companies will pay a premium for social plastics, which will benefit the end consumer and protect communities and the environment. Waste pickers themselves will also benefit by earning fairer wages. Policy-makers will also use this data to decide where to build recycling plants.

What’s the challenge?

A total of 8 million tonnes of plastic waste leaks into the ocean each year. By 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean if we do not take urgent, collective action.

Ghana generates approximately 1.1 million tonnes of plastic waste per year and approximately 5% of that is collected for recycling.

The system of waste pickers operates “below the radar” without formalized standards and processes. This puts stakeholders throughout the value chain at risk and also limits the way in which larger institutions can engage.

Our approach.

The Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP) harnesses the convening power of the World Economic Forum to bring together government, business and civil society to translate commitments into meaningful action at global and national levels.

In October 2019, the Government of Ghana officially became the first African partner of GPAP. During the launch, President Nana Akufo-Addo pledged to achieve zero plastic leakage into Ghana’s ocean and waterways, saying: “Ghana, after this process, will make best efforts to be a model for other countries in the region and on the continent on issues related to plastic management.”

The Forum played an instrumental role in bringing SAP and Ghana NPAP together. This relationship led to further connections throughout the plastics chain, including local waste picker organizations in Ghana; micro, small and medium-sized enterprises; multinational companies and local authorities. Together, this group is co-designing a software solution that connects waste pickers with potential buyers and recyclers.

GPAP is also supporting the mobilization of $77 million towards the establishment of a Circular Economy Framework in Ghana, thanks to collaboration with the Global Environment Facility, United Nations Industrial Development Organization UNIDO and the Government of Ghana.

In Ghana approximately 5% of of plastic waste is collected for recycling each year.

How can you get involved?

Do you have a social enterprise that could change the game on accelerating the circular plastics economy transition? If so, use the links below so we can hear about it and help publicize your work.

If you are a business interested in contributing your knowledge and resources to a national partnership we stand ready to connect you with a vibrant and diverse global community of change-makers, business leaders, civil society advocates, researchers, entrepreneurs and young activists who are ready to take their initiatives to the next level.

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