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Recycling curbs disease, brings jobs

posted in: Africa, Ghana, global

Sister Comfort Arthur, CSC, is responding to the urgent crisis of plastic waste that clogs drainage systems, accelerates the spread of deadly water-borne disease and pollutes the environment in Ghana, West Africa. The Plastic Waste Recycling Program, initiated by Sister Comfort, engages local citizens in the clean-up effort while providing jobs to the poor and unemployed.

“This project reads the signs of the time that include both economic inequality and plastic waste overrunning our common home, and responds to both as a prophetic witness to the Gospel call to build just and caring communities,” said Sister Comfort of the program that was piloted in November 2017.

In Ghana, like elsewhere throughout the world, the increased use of plastics has resulted in serious environmental harm. Industry estimates suggest plastic use in Africa has increased 150 percent over the past six years. Only 2 percent of plastic waste is recycled, according to the Accra, Ghana, non-profit Trashy Bags. The discarded plastic clogs local water drainage systems that are critical during heavy rains. These clogged drains result in standing water and increase the spread of deadly diseases such as malaria.

The Plastic Waste Recycling Program started with the collecting of discarded water sachet bags. (The sachet bags, used to hold drinking water, are popular in Ghana as they are less expensive than bottles of water.) Collected bags are sent to recycling centers that use the materials to make other items such as buckets. The centers pay the program for materials collected and the revenue is then distributed to local citizens who aid in the collection of discarded plastic.

The Plastic Waste Recycling Program hopes to expand its operation and engage local citizens in Kasoa, Ghana, in the cleanup of streets and waterways, and in proper recycling practices. The program received financial support through a Ministry With the Poor Fund grant in 2018-19. In November 2018, the program received a grant from the Dodds Family Charitable Foundation to purchase necessary equipment for volunteers and items to encourage increased participation by local residents.