Decades ago, at the wake of technological advancements and the evolution of businesses, consumers needed convenience. As such, businesses veered into finding more convenient means of packaging and carriage of their products. These introduced the usage of plastics in various forms and shapes.
Plastics brought ease to both businesses and consumers. It was and is a significant addition to many products value chains. It has made the way of doing business comforting but, however, poses significant threats to our lives.
Were these threats unknown at the time of its inception? Or they were known, but stepped on since society didn’t speak against it?
Plastics account for around 10 percent of the total waste we generate. It takes an average of 500 – 1,000 years to breakdown leaving us with the tiny ones we call micro-plastics.
In Ghana, about 2.58 million metric tonnes of raw plastics are imported annually, out of which 73 percent effectively end up as waste, while only 19 percent are re-used, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (2006).
Amidst these, few of our plastics make it to recycling centres. The Environmental Protection Agency reported in 2015 that just 9 percent of all plastics were recycled. However, it’s important to note that Ghana has been a regional front-runner committed to creating a domestic recycling industry that protects the environment. But there is a lot to be done to deepen our commitment to lessening the deteriorating threats plastic wastes pose.
Unfortunately, 32 percent of the plastics produced each year flow into our oceans. This equates to one garbage truck of plastics being dumped in our ocean every minute. If the ocean could speak…
A report estimated that 1.1 to 8.8 million tonnes of plastic waste enter the ocean from coastal communities each year. It was estimated that there is a stock of 86 million tons of plastic marine debris in the worldwide ocean as of the end of 2013, with an assumption that 1.4% of global plastics produced from 1950 to 2013 has entered the ocean and has accumulated there.
If the ocean could speak.
The obvious point is that plastic waste pollution is contributing to the decimation of fish stocks. Any further pressure on fish populations is likely to lead to a collapse, resulting in a shortage of seafood for humans.
Often, we tend to think that marine debris is unsightly but ultimately not a direct threat to our health. Now we are starting to realize the connection between plastic debris, water quality, and seafood quality. Plastics are now proven to soak up and absorb pollutants containing chemicals. These toxins are released both in the ocean and in the marine animals that consume plastics.
These toxins are known to cause liver problems, hormonal disruption, immune system problems, and childhood development issues. Recent studies have found that more than a quarter of all fish now contain plastic, including those that we consume as seafood. Elements like mercury can build their way up the food chain and it is an existing concern for large fish such as tuna. Plastics and plastic-related chemicals are no different. It is becoming more and more apparent that humans are consuming plastics and toxins through their food even in our salt.
I guess you don’t want to stop eating seafood.
Over the period, I have been committed to advocating for plastic-free environment. Recently, I visited the palace mall at Tema, Community 25 to engage the Manager, Mr Mohamed Saleme on measures to mitigate the usage of plastics. I have been actively educating my peers and society about the deteriorating effects plastic waste poses on lives in the air, the ocean and on land.
I have equally volunteered with Social Organisations and youth groups in ensuring a plastic-free environment. I am by this calling on the government, the media houses, influencers, and other stakeholders to join hands as we fight to preserve our environment and protect lives on land and underwater.
Beyond the bin, plastic waste needs to recycled, regulations about plastic pollution need to be enforced. We need to deliberately be conscious of our plastic waste by segregating our waste. Carrying our Reusable bags and bottles will go a long way to help reduce plastic pollution. Every bit of our actions contributes to a better future. Join hands with me to pledge for a better Ghana, for a clean environment, and for a sustainable living.
Just think…beyond the bin and if the ocean could speak.
Writer: Rosemond Yeboah
Facebook: Rosemond Ama Yeboah