Ghana’s heart is in trouble, clogged with plastic waste, and it needs saving. That is why a group of Methodist Girls High School students have joined forces to kick start an environmentally friendly business that could contribute to safeguarding the country’s future.
These Methodist Girls High School students, 24 in number, have started converting plantain and banana stems into paper bags as an alternative to plastics under the umbrella of Akoma Inc.
Two members of Akoma, Maame Yaa Ohene-Eku, a science student and Naa Shormeh Nortey, a home economics students were on the Citi Business Edition and used the opportunity to explain the rationale behind the project.
The business idea started in their school’s entrepreneurship club, where they identified the problem of plastic waste as something they could help solve with paper packaging.
After they had conducted their research, “we found that Plantain stem had the fibre that can be used to manufacture paper,” Naa Shormeh recalled.
They take the stems, dry them, cut them into pieces, boil them and then the mill the boiled stalks for the pulp then they dry it to get their paper.
The paper, which is brown in colour generally known as uncoated craft paper, can be used for packaging and boxes.
In 2017, Ghana imported $22.3 million worth of uncoated craft paper proving there is a healthy market for Akoma’s enterprise, which started production in November 2018.
A stem produces about 50 bags and the group is eyeing an increase in production provided it gets more support.
“For now we are not able to produce at a larger scale to meet the market demands because our project is ready for the market. We are not able to meet that demand because of the lack of equipment,” Naa Shormeh said.
Akoma already has willing buyers, according to the girls, but they say they need equipment like a new milling machine, a blender and a V type cutting and creasing machine, among others.
“Our product is ready for market and if we are to produce at a larger scale, in the next 10 years or five years, I see this company not only making money but helping the country in the sense that we are creating jobs and also extra income for farmers. So the future of our business is really bright.”
Right now, the girls make do with support from their parents and their school.
They have also started a plastic return programme as an innovative way of gaining value for their work.
“You give us plastic waste and we sell it and we give you our paper products in exchange,” Maame Yaa said.
The girls stressed that their most important support base will be the Ghanaian people.
“We will make more if Ghanaians purchase made in Ghana goods.”