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Ghana and Recycling Culture

One of the hardest obstacles I’ve faced during my internship with SSNIT is the lack of understanding when it comes to recycling.  I know that Ghana has serious waste disposal issues, but it amazes me that despite a ‘clean initiative’ newspaper article here and there or a tagged wall claiming “#KeepGhanaClean” there is still a surprising lack of initiative and education around recycling.

Coming from PNW culture where recycling is almost a religion, it has been hard to adjust to the lack of recycling bins and the overall paper-heavy culture in general. At SSNIT, almost everything is paper-based. I have seen 100 page presentations printed out, stacked on shelves that are over five years old. I make a point to comment almost every time I see a waste of paper in the office, but it’s usually just met with giggles or general non-reaction.

The other day, we had five copies in our office of the same exact newspaper. We were told to file it. I was confused, because why would you want to save so many of the same paper? The answer I received was troubling.

“What else would we do with it?”

I don’t think recycling is part of the culture at all. In fact, I’m almost sure, because today I had a conversation with my fellow interns about how recycling works. I was asked what happens to the paper or cans once recycled, and I explained that they were just used to create more paper or cans. So there’s a long way to go.

Last week I learned about composting initiatives going on in the markets in Accra, which is obviously a huge undertaking as well as recycling. But it is my sincerest hope that recycling education will grow in tandem and there will be some type of impact, at least with less paper being used in offices or perhaps a recycling container next to the waste containers at the markets. But for now, it is just so hard to see. I want change now, and it’s frustrating when I can’t do anything about it.