The article you are about to read was written by 13-year-old Persis Naabie Doosogla and 11-year-old Anna Eresong Doosogla of Akosombo International School, Ghana.
Persis and Anna are winners of the Young Reporters for the Environment Competition 2018, age group 11-14.
Ghana has a huge challenge when it comes to environmental sanitation. In 2015, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) released a report in which Ghana was ranked the seventh dirtiest country in the world.
Funding has been committed to solving the problem by the Government of Ghana through the Municipal Metropolitan and District Assemblies (MMDA), but not much can be seen so far. The waste management challenge will persist if we the citizenry do not change our attitudes and start seeing trash as cash by making our litter to glitter our lives.
As young pupils of Akosombo International School (AIS) and active members of the Eco-Schools club, we learned over a period that managing waste and litter in the proper way can bring much improvement to our lives. We got to understand that someone’s waste is another man’s resources. In this article, we have decided to share with all, especially the younger generation, the new ways of managing waste. We believe that if the lessons we have learned are implemented in school and at home, it will save our planet and improve health and well-being.
What Constitutes Waste?
Waste is everything that no longer has a use or purpose and needs to be disposed of. (American Veterinary Medical Foundation). Litter, on the other hand, is a disorderly accumulation of objects or carelessly discarded refuse or trash of any type thrown where it doesn't belong.
In our school, we generate more solid waste which include paper, plastic bottles, drink cans, leftover food, pen and pencil materials, biscuit wrappers, sachet plastic, plastic bottles and bags of all kinds, peels of plantain, banana and yam, egg shells, fish waste, cut hedges, pruned tree branches, mowed lawns grasses, fallen leaves and more.
In the past, these waste materials were put together in litter bins around the school and were evacuated by one truck. Because the waste truck came only once every week, the mixed litter most of the time overflowed the bins and left an unpleasant smell. Litter had been managed very well in the township and Akosombo had consistently been adjudged as the cleanest town in Ghana.
But now, the town is gradually losing the fight against environmental cleanliness due to a population increase, lack of resources and the careless attitudes of some individuals. What we have found from been active members of the Eco-School Club is the best way to go is turning trash to cash to reduce poverty and hunger in AIS.
Where We Got It - Learning about the 4Rs
In our Eco-School program, we learned about the 4Rs rule, which is part of the waste hierarchy process that is used to protect the environment and conserve resources. Most people know the rule as the 3Rs which means Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. We in AIS realized that Ghanaians are good in policy formulation but bad implementers.
So, we added a 4th R (Respond to the call of the 3Rs). This is to motivate ourselves to actively participate and adhere to the principles of the 3Rs. Our response has yielded much results. In AIS, we adopted waste separation as our project and it was difficult and unsuccessful at the beginning for the following reasons:
- We were separating without a clear understanding of what to do with it the waste.
- We did not have enough litter bins.
- Bins were labelled as plastic, paper and organic, and students were confused where to keep cans, cellophane, and other waste. In their frustration, they dropped them in any of the bins.
- Students and pupils did not know what constituted organic waste, especially the ones that could be composted.
- After students separated the waste, the Volta River Authority (VRA) waste management team poured all the trash back into one truck and disposed them together at a landfill site. This led students to realize they were undertaking a useless venture.
Notwithstanding these initial implementation challenges, the successes of the program have been enormous. We made cash from trash through the following:
- Waste paper was traded for tissue paper from the Akosombo Paper Mill Ltd.
- Sachet plastic was sold to recycling companies and their middlemen for cash.
- A compost site was constructed and all plant and food materials were dumped there. We anticipate using the compost to fertilize the flower gardens and grow some vegetables organically.
How We Did It – Implementing the Last R
While we were struggling in school with the challenges enumerated above, there was much success at home. Only a single litter bin is provided to each household for waste collection. We used that bin for all other waste except organic or biodegradable substances and paper. We dug a pit in the backyard where we disposed of all organic materials like food waste, leaf fall, mowed grass and other kitchen waste.
This allowed the waste to naturally decompose to form compost, which we dug out and applied to our backyard garden crops such as pepper, garden eggs, cocoyam, plantain and banana. We also placed all waste paper and discarded books in a sack that was later sent to the school to be added to the school’s collection for onward transfer to the Akosombo Paper Mill Ltd. Thus, our waste bin at home never overflowed, eliminating the attraction of flies as seen in other households around us.
In effect, we separated our waste into only three categories – organic, paper and others; the latter was the only part VRA took to the landfill site. The other two that accumulated a bulk of our waste – specifically organic waste – became useful and became produce in our home garden.
Who Has Been Affected?
In our moment of struggling to do something about the waste that was being separated in the school, a compost site was built by the school in 2015 to help us decompose the organic or biodegradable materials for use. Some officers of the Environment and Sustainable Development Department (ESDD) of VRA saw the initiative from the school and decided that solid waste must be separated in all VRA offices in Akosombo, Akuse and Accra. In 2017, VRA signed an agreement with the paper mill to supply office waste paper in exchange for tissue paper.
Our success was communicated to our Eco-School Club. The leaders of the club in AIS came out with a better and workable system of waste separation and management. Five bins were labelled and placed strategically – organic, sachet plastic, plastic bottles, paper and other waste.
The money used to buy the printed labels came from water sachet and other club activities’ sales. The paper is now used for various arts and craft work by grade school children.
Our experience in AIS since we engaged in the Eco-School’s project shows that proper management of our litter will not only improve sanitation in our communities, but will improve our health and well-being, reduce poverty and hunger.
Young Reporters for Environment – Ghana
Contact info: E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Instagram: @ecoschools_ghana @yre_ghana
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