SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT
Waste management is one of the concerns most frequently raised by urban dwellers. Though many local government assemblies spend significant portions of their total revenues on it, indications are that the results are largely unsatisfactory. Hardly a day goes by without a complaint in the media about the poor sanitary conditions in the cities, be it waste accumulation, drain non-maintenance or poor toilet facilities.
The goal of an efficient solid waste management system is to collect, transport, treat and dispose of solid wastes in an environmentally and socially satisfactory manner using the most economical means available. By law, local governments have responsibility for providing solid waste management services in Ghana and almost all local government have bye-laws that give them exclusive ownership over waste once it has been placed outside a home or establishment for collection.
As towns and cities grow, business activity and consumption patterns drive up solid waste quantities. At the same time increased traffic congestion adversely affects the productivity of the solid waste fleet. Productivity loss is exacerbated by longer hauls required of the fleet, as sanitary sites for disposal are either encroached upon or located further away from urban centers. The challenge is to rationalize worker and vehicle performance, while expanding services to a growing urban population.
The challenges of municipal solid waste collection in Ghana are numerous. Municipalities spend between 30-50 percent of their available recurrent budget on solid waste management. Yet it is also common that 30-60 percent of all the urban solid waste in developing countries is uncollected and less than 50 percent of the population is served. In some cases as much as 80 percent of the collection and transport equipment is out of service, in need of repair or maintenance, resulting in open dumping with burning as the norm.
Sustainability of waste management is crucial to providing an effective service that satisfies the needs of end users. It is imperative that Ghana introduce source-sorting of solid waste to promote composting of organic waste and recycling of metals, plastics and paper, thereby reducing the quantity of waste deposited at the landfill site. About 50 percent of Ghana’s waste is organic and composting will generate organic manure that could enrich rapidly depleting agricultural lands. Recycled metals or glass requires approximately 40 percent less energy to treat than materials made from their ores. In Ghana, where collection consumes a higher share of income than in developed countries, construction of transfer station will drastically reduce the cost of collection. Finally, it is important that a regulatory body is established to oversee waste management and environmental sanitation. Such body should be responsible for policy formulation, regulation and monitoring.