Plastic waste is an enormous problem in Ghana: you can see it almost everywhere you look. But local people have found ways to use these plastics to create jobs and a make a profit, while also improving the environment.
Spark Africa is always looking for new businesses and surprising initiatives. Today we report from Ghana. The biggest problem here is litter and waste.
Ghana. Population: 23.9 million. GNP per capita USD$485. Plastic waste in 2008: 22,000 tonnes.
DIANA DINSY-SOWAH [Spark Africa Ghana]
Everywhere you go, one will see the streets littered with empty water bags and bottles. This is why the plastic bag is often referred to as the flower of Africa. Recently, however, several initiatives that are making use of the waste to produce new products have come to light in Ghana. Now we go to Amina, a coastal town two hours' drive from Accra.
Cyclus Elmina Plastic Recycling Ltd.
This company is called Cyclus. They collect and process street litter. It seems even waste can be profitable. How that works: a construction company in Ghana and a waste company in Netherlands have joined forces.
NANA PAAPA VAN DYCK [Director, Vanhold Construction Ltd]
And in the process we realized that there were too many plastics in our environment. We can do something about it.
WIM HARDEMAN [Project manager, Cyclus Elmina]
We collect waste from households, from hotels, restaurants, bars. But as well we also recycle waste which comes from the industry.
The sorting, assembly, and transportation of plastic waste is a business alone. More than 500 people are involved in the process.
Where it comes down is that the people who pick the plastics are being paid for the work they do. So the PET [polyethylene terephthalate] is being turned into fiber, being used to make anything, like jeans, jackets, carpets, tennis balls, etc.
There are plenty of clients, including the local metal industry or an international fiber company.
And if you look at the whole chain, from the picking to the recycling, everything can be a very sound business.
NANA PAAPA VAN DYCK
The environment is cleaner. All those plastics you see here, would have been in the soil of Ghana.
Another option is to leave the bottles exactly as they are, and create something totally different. This is a new business idea invented by an artist.
JOHANNES ARTHUR [Plastic Artist]
If you realize, it was a need for furniture in my room. And it was my desire as an artist to create something new. The double lounge chair, the three-in-one armchair, the single armchair, I have a center table ... The ultimate would be a full house built with the bottles.
So now you've seen how companies in Ghana and the people of Ghana have found ways of making money out of plastic waste. The environment is getting cleaner, and the people who collect the waste are getting an income. Above all, this chair is very comfortable.