Re-imagining Beach Clean Ups

Oluwaseun David-Akindele, Head of Corporate Communications and Brands Management, Access Bank Ghana

The population of Africa is projected to reach 2.5 billion by the year 2050, indicating a substantial population surge. In Ghana specifically, it is estimated that the country will be home to 50 million inhabitants. It is estimated that our waste production will reach billions of tons by 2050 according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, with indications that we will have more plastics in the ocean than fish by 2050 if we continue with our linear approach to develop where we Take, Make and Waste with little consideration to the embedded value of waste.

Fortunately, the world, including Africa and Ghana, is responding to these challenges. Ghana is a signatory to the Paris Agreement and has taken on leadership roles in addressing climate change and plastic pollution. Ghana led the African bloc in reaching a decision to operationalize a loss and damage fund to help African countries mitigate the impact of climate change. Additionally, Ghana was the first African country to join the Global Plastic Action Partnership, committing to zero plastics leakage into oceans and waterways by 2040 and working towards a circular economy for plastics. Ghana is also a member of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee, which is developing an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution. Ghana also recently launched the National marine Summit last week, laying out a national commitment towards harnessing the potential of the blue economy via a holistic approach to the management of marine resources.

Plastic pollution is a critical challenge, projected to reach 1.1 billion metric tons by 2050, with 29 million metric tons entering the oceans each year by 2040. Legislation and policies take time to translate into action, but immediate and impactful actions can be taken at the individual, household, community, and corporate levels. Instead of solely relying on one-off beach clean-ups, efforts should be focused on empowering communities to be part of the solution. Creating permanent infrastructure in collaboration with local stakeholders for plastic waste management can serve as community resource efficiency centres, where the community can deepen their understanding of resource efficiency, particularly the segregation of plastic waste. This could be a sustainable approach to financing waste infrastructure and contributing towards SDGs especially by the financial sector.

Access to collection points for plastic waste is a significant challenge in Ghana, and establishing infrastructure and working with the community can ensure efficient plastic waste management while contributing to Ghana's commitments to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG 12. Corporate entities can claim the plastic collected at these collection points as a credit towards their organizations, offsetting their plastic impact continuously rather than in one-off initiatives.

Taking responsibility for plastic pollution begins internally. Eliminating single-use plastics within organizations can start with waste audits and exploring alternatives to plastics. Employee training on reducing single-use plastics in their homes and implementing waste policies within businesses also demonstrate commitments to reducing plastic exposure. The commitment to change starts with individuals and corporations, and together, clean-up efforts can restore clean environments, one community at a time in Ghana, through a change in attitude towards beach clean-ups.

It is no surprise that the World Environment Day which is set aside to raise awareness about global environmental issues, has declared “Beating Plastic Pollution” as a global theme for the third time since 2018. On 5th June don’t waste funds on a one-off beach clean-up but rather work with a local plastic actor in a community to set up a permanent collection point.  A typical well established collection point including adequate community advocacy, which is always the missing link, could collect an estimated 1 ton of plastics per week.

You can explore other ways to reducing your plastic exposure: You could ditch plastic lined call cards and explore digital call cards which gives you oversight over your corporate networking. You could explore digital upstream innovation in catering which displaces the use of single use plastics for food delivery. You could also explore the use of water dispensers at your corporate events to eliminate plastic waste from water consumption. Finally, you can train employees, empowering them with the right choices to play their part as responsible consumers while making a clear commitment towards reducing your plastic exposure. As a corporate institution, Access Bank Ghana recycled plastic and flexi material generated from old billboards for school bags through its ‘Bag a Smile’ project. Over 500 children across the operating communities of the bank benefitted from the school bags thus promoting their education whiles safeguarding the environment.

Engaging in one-off beach clean-ups should not be the end. One-off Beach clean-ups is only a temporary solution to the problem, we need sustainable and holistic solution to beating plastic pollution. Let’s invest in a local community infrastructure and unlock clean-ups every week within communities for a meaningful contribution towards addressing plastic pollution.

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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.