Ghana stands at a pivotal juncture in its battle against plastic waste, a global crisis that threatens our oceans and environment. The recent proposal by the finance minister to expand the Environmental Excise Duty has emerged as a beacon of hope, signaling the government's commitment to confronting this growing menace.

The government implemented the Environmental Excise Tax in 2013, targeting specific plastic products. The funds from the tax were supposed to be used for waste recycling, but there have been some controversies surrounding the appropriate use of the funds collected from the environmental excise. In 2019, the Ghana Plastic Manufacturers Association held a conference claiming the government has not been using the fund for its intended purposes.

Fast forward to the 2024 budget reading, where the finance minister announced the expansion of the Environmental Excise Duty to cover plastic packaging, reflecting a concerted effort to curb plastic use in the country.

He said, “To address the negative externalities of plastic waste and pollution, the Government will review and expand the Environmental Excise Duty to cover plastic packaging.” This would affect the economy tremendously since, according to the Ghana Plastic Manufacturers Association, 87% of industries in Ghana use plastic packaging.

Read more: 9% of plastic waste generated in Ghana end up in the ocean – MESTI

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), Ghana contributes to the global plastic dilemma, generating approximately 840,000 tonnes of plastic waste annually. Alarming statistics indicate that only 9.5% of this colossal waste is collected for recycling, leaving behind a staggering 760,000 tonnes to infiltrate our drains and water bodies.

In 2019, Ghana joined the Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP), a multi-stakeholder platform committed to translating anti-plastic commitments into tangible actions. During its launch, President Akufo-Addo expressed the nation's determination to serve as a model for plastic management across the African continent.

Significant strides have been made with the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology, and Innovation (MESTI) actively engaging plastic manufacturers, providing education and occasional donations to waste-collecting entities. Simultaneously, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducts workshops and inspections to ensure plastics produced have biodegradable components.

Read more: There might soon be more plastics than fish in your seas – Ramsar Chief cautions Ghana, other African countries

Ghanaians have also joined the fight. Over 2000 waste collectors and entrepreneurial ventures are actively contributing to waste reduction, as reported by the WEF. Groups like the "Buzstop boys," taking to the streets to clear gutters choked with plastics, symbolize the youth's commitment.

Despite government interventions and civic efforts, Ghana's plastic waste continues to surge by 5.4% annually, with a 3.4% increase in per capita plastic consumption and a projected 190% rise in plastic leakage into water bodies. This raises questions about the efficacy of current strategies.

The root problem, as suggested by experts and the WEF, lies in the entire plastic value chain, from producers seeking cost-effective solutions to consumers demanding convenience. Collectors, while vital, face resource constraints, and the growing gap between plastic waste generation and the capacity to collect intensifies the issue.

Read more: AMA engineer calls for ban on single-use plastics

A comparative lens reveals Ivory Coast's legislative ban on non-biodegradable plastic bags in 2013, and Rwanda's pioneering move in 2008, banning single-use plastic bags, expanding further in 2019. These measures showcase a variety of approaches but reveal that bans alone may not suffice.

The expansion of the Environmental Excise Duty is commendable, but its impact hinges on the efficient allocation of the revenue generated. The government must direct funds towards bolstering waste management by supporting collectors and recycling facilities.

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To catalyze change, the government should promote reuse through initiatives like refillable bottles, enhance recycling by removing fossil fuel subsidies and enforcing design guidelines, and encourage the use of alternative materials such as paper or compostable materials, aligning with recommendations from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Simultaneously, public education initiatives and engagement with influencers and celebrities can foster a sense of national pride in ending plastic waste.

Read more: Unilever Ghana Plc targets 100% reusable plastics by 2025

While Ghana has initiated the battle against plastic waste, winning the war demands intentionality. Analyzing the multifaceted dimensions of this issue, it becomes apparent that holistic strategies, effective resource allocation, and a united national front are imperative. The journey towards a plastic-free future is demanding, but with deliberate action, Ghana can lead the charge in safeguarding its environment for generations to come.

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.