As society advances, people’s desires for more and more consumer goods keeps being insatiable; from smart phones, to iPods, ipads, tablets, flashy cars, clothes, foods etc. With more and more consumption come challenges with managing the waste these goods produce. How many of us really do care about what happens to the tons of waste we produce as households and individuals. Maybe this should be the headache of city authorities and waste management companies; perhaps. The truth is that when we all start thinking and asking questions about how waste can be managed and even used as an income generating resource, the challenge of solid waste management will no longer be frightening.
Solid waste challenges as an attitudinal problem
Solid waste management challenges in Ghana and West Africa are more of an attitudinal and administrative problem than technical. By observation, most people attitudes towards their own waste generated is appalling, disgraceful, irresponsible and unpatriotic. Probably we can also add ignorance to the list of bad habits. This writer has personally observed people in buses and plush cars throw out litter from the windows unto the pavements and gutters. Well -dressed men and women drink sachet water and throw the plastics on the streets indiscriminately. It has also been observed that petty traders, shop owners and market women used the gutters as their refuse dump to dispose of their dirt. Some households who believe they are laws unto themselves also dispose their garbage at unauthorized places in towns and cities. Are there not laws to regulate and stop these bad habits? There are laws in abundance. However, in this part of the world, laws are one thing and the enforcement an entirely different matter. Even if there are laws and people are inherently irresponsible when it comes to waste issues, the problem can be a daunting one to solve. How can attitudes change for the better? This is where leadership and good administration comes in.
Solid waste challenges as a Leadership and Administrative problem.
Good leadership and excellent administration can ensure that these solid waste challenges are reduced by 90% and more. It is unfortunate that most of our leaders and administrators are mostly pre occupy with winning and maintaining their positions than working earnestly for the people and making a great positive difference in the lives of many. How often do we find waste management or sanitation officers in our communities doing serious inspection of our home environments, street corners, garbage centers etc? The truth is that most people will do the right thing if they are conscious that inspectors are watching and making regular unannounced visits. Also regular fines slap on environmental offenders will serve as a deterrent to all and sundry to do the right thing. Sanitation managers and officials must regularly inspect garbage sites to ensure that they are well maintained and hygienic. From observation, many garbage centers are overflowing with refuse week in week out. This is an indictment on the part of not only sanitation officials but also community leaders such an assembly and municipal leaders as well as local chiefs and all inhabitants of the area. Good administrators will always anticipate the challenges of waste management and put in measures to solve them. The pavements and street centers do not have garbage bins for pedestrians and residents to easily drop their litter. This is no license for any one to litter the street but it helps when there are visible bins around the city.
This administrative challenge can even be turned into an employment opportunity for the youth especially. Several unemployed graduates from tertiary institutions can be trained and hired as health and sanitation officers to educate the public on matters of waste and carry out regular inspection of streets, pavements and homes in communities.
It is often said where there is the will, there is a way. A committed leadership that has health & sanitation as a top priority will create avenues to effectively deal with the situation. Let the institutions and the city authorities mandated to deal with solid waste do their jobs. If logistics such as tools and equipment are the problem, provide them and keep the drains and gutters clean.
Keeping clean environment is a way of life not a political event
Declaring a day of clean up exercise or a week of sanitation work will not go very far to solve our waste problems. We make a huge political event out of this. You will see the president, vice president, traditional rulers seen on television and spearheading clean up campaigns. Is this realistic or simply hypocritical? Should our top leaders descend into the gutters to prove their commitment to keeping our towns and cities clean? This ought not to be. Let us stop deceiving our selves. Le those with the mandate to clean up the cities be empowered to do their work. A lot of youths are unemployed and will gladly take up sanitation work in our communities if they are well paid to do so. This political show case does not solve the problem of waste. Street cleaning is a daily continuous work that should be well supervised and rewarded.
What are the visible progresses in solid waste management in our cities?
We’ll, there are big meetings held every year with all the major stake holders in the sub region coming together to share ideas on how to deal with the waste menace. Very fine ideas are put on paper about how to turn waste management into employment opportunities, the recycling of plastic waste, turning solid and liquid waste into fertilizers to enhance agriculture, creating modernized landfill sites to dispose of waste and turning waste into money.
Great ideas but what’s left is the effective implementation. A couple of waste management companies for instance Zoomlion in Ghana and other private firms have been of some help in dealing with solid waste matters. Some private firms in Ghana are also recycling plastics into usable materials such as cups, bowls, plates, toys etc. Let them all be encouraged to do a good job.
West Africa and the rest of the continent can do itself proud by putting their money where their mouths are and investing in solving the solid waste menace in our part of the world.
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