Ghanaians discard about 5,000 tons of plastic each day and barely 5 percent of it makes it to recycling facilities. The rest winds up in landfills, illegal dumps, streets, and waterways, or is burned in open pits, poisoning the air.
Ghana has contemplated banning certain kinds of plastic usage similar to Rwanda and Kenya but there is a great worry about job losses and those proposals have been tough for governments to act on them.
For Nelson Boateng, the plastics business is all he has known since he started working at a factory at age 13.
Fearing that the country could ban plastics anytime soon, Boateng’s company, Nelplast which makes plastic shopping bags re-strategized to focus on plastic recycling.
In 2015, the once upon a time plastic producer was pushed to think that plastic recycling was a good business opportunity.
Using knowledge learned informally from engineers he had worked with, he came up with a production process that mixes sand with shredded plastic and red oxide to make bricks.
“We have a ratio with which we use to mix the plastics, sand, and red oxide,” he told GhanaWeb’s Desmond Frimpong on the BizTech programme.
His affordable plastic-infused blocks have been used to pave some homes and to rebuild a pitted stretch of road in Ashaiman, the densely-populated township where he grew up.
The current product is a form of asphalt that is a mix of 70 per cent sand and 30 per cent plastic waste.
Sand for the asphalt is collected from drainage systems in yet another example of the organisation’s commitment to sustainability.
The asphalt is used to make building materials for roads and plastic roofing tiles, and the company is looking to expand into other products. The company has built Ghana’s first plastic home at an affordable price.
“The building you see behind me is GH¢60,000. We are operating with a generator that is why the cost is that high. If it were on the national grid, any ordinary Ghanaian earing between 500 and 1000 will be able to afford a home”, he told Desmond.
At present, Nelplast collects over 2000 kg of plastic daily and employs more than 60 locals, a number they hope to grow in coming years.
Boateng said he wants to lead the “recycling revolution” in Ghana and help the country achieve at least 50 per cent recycling of plastic waste.
Below is the full interview with Desmond Frimpong: