Waste Less, Live More: Promoting Sustainable Consumption in Ghana

The growing global concern over environmental degradation and its impact on communities has become increasingly vital for nations to take meaningful steps toward sustainable practices. Ghana, like many other countries, faces its fair share of environmental challenges, and the way forward lies in fostering a culture of conscious consumption and responsible waste management.

In a discussion on the SDG Hub this week on Promoting Sustainable Consumption in Ghana, Emmanuel Akumun, Head of Communications, at the Centre for Sustainable Transformation, explained the concept of sustainable consumption and its benefits on the environment. He stated,

“The concept of responsible consumption or sustainable consumption is just mainly a practice of choosing products that are environmentally friendly whether they are for personal, public, or office use. It entails products that have been made in a way that they minimize their environmental impact. It means making conscious decisions to choose products that are environmentally friendly”

“There are a lot of benefits that sustainable products have on the environment. One is the environmental impact of the product. Like the example I just gave of using plastic to package our food for instance, so you can always tell that environmentally, having that many plastics around is not good. And then secondly, they reduce the health risk. And as we all know, sustainable products are made in a way that they are mostly chemical free, so as a consumer of sustainable products or items, you know that it reduces the way of contracting diseases because most of the items in there are organic.”

Recent statistics by the World Health Organization (WHO) show that Accra alone produces about 2200 tonnes of solid waste daily, and 66% of this waste is organic materials. A publication by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in October 2022, revealed that “about 12,710 tonnes of solid waste is generated every day in Ghana, with only 10 percent collected and disposed of properly. Plastic waste constitutes a large proportion of urban waste.”

Felix Laryea, Administration manager of Jekora Ventures, a waste management company in Ghana, during the discussion also emphasized the importance of education in promoting sustainable consumption among Ghanaians and the challenges faced. In his words

 “So, there are different kinds of people making up the community. But in local settings, we (Jekora Ventures) like to go through the traditional leaders. So, we have several engagements with the traditional leaders and we try to work with them to be able to get to the people, we have durbars. with them, where we have some drama series and other things showing, to be able to demonstrate to the people what we believe the right thing to do is. And then through the Assemblies.”

According to Mr Laryea, one big problem the country is  dealing with is getting people to change how they act. He made known that people are  so used to doing things a certain way, and that can be hard to change. Mr Laryea added that,  help should be provided to teach  people to understand why it is important to separate trash instead of mixing it all up. “ Then we'll make a lot of progress. When people really get why they're doing something, it's like we've already done a big part of the job.”

Akumun also added that educating communities and Ghanaians will inform them about the consequences of not using sustainable products. “Aside from the knowledge and awareness that it creates, I think another major role that education plays in bringing forth the gospel of sustainable consumption is that it makes you understand consequences which in turn leads to behavioral change.”

Given the gloomy image painted by the data of Ghana's rubbish problem, it is obvious that quick action is needed. More than merely the environment, waste management error has an impact on people's health, way of life, and economic prosperity. Incorrect plastics disposal causes marine contamination, jeopardizing Ghana's coastal environments, while overflowing landfills discharge hazardous greenhouse gasses and chemicals into the soil and water.

The production of more sustainable products in the country can promote its consumption. This in turn will reduce waste.

“We should change at the point of production and take a more sustainable approach because we are dealing with this because we produce materials that are not sustainable. Once we begin to change our practices and production patterns, I think this problem will soon be a thing of the past,” Laryea added.