Mr Ebo Botwe, the President of the GPMA, who made the appeal, said because the Authority had not been established, it had become difficult for the release of funds for the management of plastic waste in the country.
Mr Botwe, also the Chairman of the Plastic Waste Management Programme, Ghana (PWMPG), made the appeal when he briefed the media on the recurrent calls for ban on plastics.
He said the 10 per cent Environmental Excise Tax (EET) that was introduced over the years had accrued to a total sum of GH¢912 million, which had been paid into the Consolidated Fund because the fund secretariat was yet to be set up.
He said the government had not released the monies that had accrued over the last eight years for its intended purpose of managing plastic waste due to this reason.
The money accrued when put into effective use, could build six ultra-modern high-capacity polyethylene terephthalate (PET) Bottle waste recycling plants, 20 high capacity High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE/LD) recycling plants and two high-capacity plastic-to-fuel plants.
Mr Botwe was of the view that recycling was the best way to effectively deal with used up PET bottles, adding that the combined installed capacity for a six PET bottle waste plants would be 72,000 tonnes per year.
He mentioned the challenges involved in the improper disposal of plastic wastes in the environment, adding that they would remain for thousands of years unless it was made to bio-degrade.
Mr Botwe said there was, therefore, an urgent need for the government to come up with a legislative instrument to regulate the use and management of plastics in the country as was the case in other African countries.
“We need the government to set up an LI to compel bottling companies in Ghana to at least use 30 per cent of recyclable material in their production.
He also called on the government to ban the importation of flexible plastic bags from China into Ghana, adding that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ensures that GPMA members conform to the production of Oxo-bio additive flexible plastic packaging but alleged that products from China did not conform to the directive.
“The Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation made it mandatory to use Oxo-bio additive in our manufacturing process to check plastic pollution,” Mr Botwe stressed.
Oxo-biodegradable plastic is often referred to as “degradable” plastic, since it does not require a biological process to degrade.
“Currently, about 62 per cent of plastic carry bags, takeaway bags, cut bags, films and sheets on the markets are imported mostly from China which is not Oxo-biodegradable nor degradable and these form the huge plastic waste we find in our environment. This is seriously hurting the plastic industry in Ghana…unfortunately, EPA has failed to enforce this ministerial directive right from its inception,” he said.
The group, therefore, called on the EPA to enforce the laws and regulations on Oxo-bio additive on imported finished plastic products into the country.
Plastic packaging products in Ghana
Mr Botwe further stated that the installed capacity for plastic packaging products was at 56 per cent utilisation while imports were over 62 per cent coupled with the fact that most of the multinational companies were also importing their plastic packaging – attributing their reason to their importation to the high cost of the locally manufactured plastic products.
“Fact is that the quantity of Chinese imports are increasing by the day because more Chinese nationals are setting up warehouses and importing finished plastic packaging products for retail. This activity by the Chinese is also against the law on retailing by foreigners. Indeed, it has gotten to a stage where some local traders have set up small-scale production factories in China to produce plastic takeaway bags, rolls, cut bags, sheets and the rest and ship them to Ghana for sale,” he asserted.
Mr Botwe also said there were about 160 plastic manufacturers in the country giving direct employment to over 28,000 people and indirect employment of over 4,200 and also generated over 3.7 million jobs in the plastic waste recycling sector.
He continued that about 87 per cent of industries in Ghana depended on the plastic manufacturers for all their plastic packaging needs, adding that equally, industries in Togo, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger depends heavily on Ghana’s plastic manufacturers for their plastic packaging needs.
“It is interesting to note that all production of plastic bags, rolls, sheets etc. for Burkina Faso market must be bio-degradable,” he affirmed.
He also called for a ban on flexible plastic bags and packaging imports as about 60 per cent of the plastic waste generated was from outside the country.
Addressing the consequences of banning plastics, Mr Botwe noted that the country would have 18.2 per cent of its population unemployed if a ban was placed. He, therefore, urged the government, as a matter of urgency, to release the 10 per cent EET to enable the plastic industry to carry out recycling initiatives in accordance with Act 863.
He said the plastic industry was very complex and a highly technical field and one must get the right training and understanding to be able to advise accordingly.
“Much is still unknown or misunderstood about plastics but we believe we have the capacity and the technologies are there to manage our plastic waste if we want to do so.
The capacity to develop a sustainable business module in plastic waste recycling is endless and plastics will continue to evolve,” he stressed.