The European Union Delegation to Ghana organized a seminar on “Circular Economy Opportunities in Ghana” on 7th and 8th May 2019 at the Labadi Beach Hotel in Accra, Ghana. The seminar that brought together non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil service organizations (CSOs), private sector companies, government organizations, entrepreneurs, businessmen and women mainly from Europe and Ghana, focused on improving knowledge and information regarding circular economy opportunities, promoting and raising awareness about green jobs for young people and women.

GAYO had the privilege of being invited to participate in the learning and knowledge sharing process as a member of the Africa Circular Economy Network (ACEN), and due to its stand on environmental related issues, waste management and a strong advocate of the circular economy concept.

The seminar kicked off with a welcome address from H.E Diana Acconcia, the European Delegation Ambassador to Ghana, speeches from the Mayor of Accra and the Deputy Minister for Environment, Science, Technology, and Innovation – Mr. Mohammed Adjei Sowah and Mrs. Patricia Appiagyei respectively. Their address and speeches were centered on how far Europe has advanced in the circular economy and some of the benefits Ghana can achieve when the circular economy is adapted as well. This was followed with a plenary session on what circular economy is and what is being done in Ghana, then a roundtable discussion on what kind of opportunities exist, the challenges and the needs of the circular economy enterprises, and a thematic group session on plastic, agriculture and electronic wastes which allowed participants to contribute and provide actionable recommendations for the future development of the circular economy in Ghana.

Gloria Bobson (Program Assistant, GAYO) presenting ideas for circular activities during the event.

What then is Circular Economy? Circular Economy is basically an economic system aimed at minimizing waste and at the same time making the most out of our limited resources. It is an alternative to the traditional linear economy which is centered on taking from the finite resources, making products out of them, using them and finally disposing of them. At GAYO, we strongly agree with the authors of Circular Business and see Circular Economy as an economy which is regenerative by design, with the aim to retain as much value as possible of products, parts and materials through optimal reuse, refurbishment, remanufacturing and recycling (being the last option) of products and materials.

In Ghana, the principles of the circular economy have been in use for generations but it is important that as we advance as a country, we incorporate it into all aspect of our business models, the agriculture sector, the transport sector and all facets of our lives. An example of the circular economy principle you may have practiced before or still practice is buying your ‘waakye’ (a local meal) from your popular food stall or restaurant in leaves (instead of Styrofoam packs) or flushing toilets with waste water from hand washing of clothes. The concept is nothing new at all and does not require those with deep pockets or only developed countries to practice it. In fact, Ghana stands a greater chance of improving its economy if we practice this regenerative approach especially in this era where plastics and plastic waste have become a menace.

Participants of eating and drinking from leaves and calabash during Power Shift 2018: A plastic public event organized by GAYO, in partnership with the Ghana Youth Environmental Movement during World Environmental Day 2018.

Some actionable recommendations on personal and community levels that were presented at the seminar for the future development of the circular economy in Ghana included tasking manufacturing industries, especially those in the consumable sector, to factor eco-friendly designs into their packaging solutions. For individuals, reducing the use of single-use plastics by switching to carrying our shopping bags to the market, reusable bottles for water, minimizing the amount of waste one generates, and practicing composting on a small scale (at home) are some simple and practical steps everyone can take. For rural areas, where waste management options are limited but food and agricultural waste is very dominant, practicing large scale composting offers a greater solution for replenishing degraded lands.  

The above recommendations form part of GAYO’s flagship project which commenced in 2017 and aimed at localizing Circular Economy for communities. The Sustainable Community Project, as we call it, was first piloted in some households in Cape Coast and New Edubiase to establish a community-led closed-loop system for waste management. In partnership with the local government office of the Adansi South District Assembly, the project is aimed at developing a circular economy model for waste management in Ghanaian communities while setting the foundation for zero waste living. This means community waste is properly segregated and utilized to generate income for the community. Hence, no open burning of waste at dumpsites and preventing the flow of waste materials into the adjacent ecosystems.  Through our continuous participation in circular economy activities, we are focused on reintegrating the principles of circular economy at the local scale by adapting it to the societal needs of each community. We hope to strengthen our knowledge, scale up our ideas, and implement our circular-based projects from one community to the other.

Wondering how you can improve Ghana’s circular economy but have no idea on what to do, join the ACEN Ghana Chapter and learn more about Circular Economy in Ghana.