Join us on our faith journey as we follow Jesus to Ghana, West Africa!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Recycling in Accra

Charlie writes:

After several months of back and forth with the manufacturer of the Pure Home Water lids stashed on our front porch, Mary Kay finally gave up and authorized me to figure out a way to clear them out. The new clay pot filters from the factory in Tamale are a different size, so the lids we had from before just won't work, and the plastics maker here wasn't willing to take them back, since they really aren't worth much without a matching bottom.

I was not looking forward to the exercise, since recycling is not done in the same way here in Accra as it would be in Atlanta. In Atlanta, I knew the various places that glass, metals, or plastics could be taken for recycling, but not here.

After a few minutes, though, I remembered that I had seen a man cutting up the yellow jerrycans that hold cooking oil in a lot not too far from our house. He and his assistant seemed to be breaking them down into flat pieces and then lashing them together in piles to be sold to plastics manufacturers across town. I thought I would wander by and ask if they would take this sort of plastic as well.

When I got there, a crew of about six young men were just pulling in with one of those four-wheeled carts that you see all about town, topped by three large white tyvek bags filled with miscellaneous plastics, and a number of "Go Bags" that were stuffed with more plastic. They untied the bags and tossed them on the ground, then used an S-shaped hook to attach the bags one at a time to a spring scale hanging from a crossbar about six feet off the ground. Then the man running the recycling center scribbled his sums in a small pad and paid the head hauler, who then passed some on to all the "boys" who had helped collect and escort the cart. The cart owner then left to gather up more from the neighborhood.

After they had finished, I approached the owner. He looked at the lid, telling me that he would pay fifty pesewas per kilogram for that sort of plastic. I enlisted two of the hangers-on to walk back to our house with two huge tyvek bags. They neatly stuffed all the lids into the bags, but then realized that they wouldn't be able to hoist them on their heads as I think they had anticipated. So I backed the Hilux over and they loaded them in the pickup bed, supervised by Jonas and Jasper. A few minutes later we were back at the lot, and the owner helped wrestle the bags into position for weighing. Mary Kay was pleasantly surprised to receive cash back for what was no longer usable, and I was amused that the scrap vendor paid the 92 ghana cedis with 92 red one cedi notes. That's about the first business I've run into in Ghana that carries exact change!

The students from CMU have been running a demonstration plastic bottle recycling program at Ashesi, not sure where the bottles go, but I had read somewhere that an NGO was collecting them to use as floats in creating netted fish hatcheries in Lake Volta, which sounded interesting.

Now if we can just figure out what to do with glass and aluminum...

No comments: