Professor Christopher Gordon, Director of the Institute of Environmental and Sanitation Studies, University of Ghana, has alerted the public that they may unknowingly consuming tiny particles of plastic called nano plastics, which are harmful to the human body.
He said these nano plastics enter the body through food and water intake and cannot digest but piles up in the stomach.
Speaking at a day’s event in Accra to celebrate this year’s World Environment Day (WED), Prof Gordon, explained that nano plastics, due to it minute nature, cannot be easily seen and could affect humans’ physiology.
The forum was jointly organised by the Australian High Commission, Ghana Wildlife Society and the USAID funded West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change, and assembled stakeholders in the environment to discuss and find practical ways to, “Beat Plastic Pollution”.
Prof Gordon suggested that as part effort to reduce plastics, retail shops and market women, should stop serving customers with plastic polybags and embark on “Operation Bring Your Bag”, where customers would be required to shop with their bags.
In addition, he recommended to government to strictly enforce the various environmental regulations by punitively punishing people who litter and also name and shame offenders.
Basing his submission on five thematic areas namely; Attitude, Change Behaviour, Creating Value, Replace, Reuse and Awareness, he explained that, there was the need to reduce dependency on plastic usage to save humans and marine lives.
Mr Joseph Kofi Adda, Minister of Sanitation, hinted that government had released GHC200 million to the Ministry to commence work on the various strategies that include education of school pupils and buying sanitation equipment.
Also, the Ministry would soon commence the recruitment of a sanitation brigade, conduct orientation for them and equip them to enforce the sanitation laws.
As part of medium to long term plans, the Minister disclosed that new landfill sites would be opened to accommodate the huge tonnes of waste, adding that, plans were far advance to ensure that all waste would be recycled in the near future.
He called on innovators, scientists and researchers to submit workable initiatives that would help deal with waste.
Mr Andrew Barnes, Australian High Commissioner to Ghana, noted that, the plastic pollution problem the world was facing was staggering and there was urgent need to take measures to reduce plastics.
“Each year, while five trillion plastic bags are used and 17 million barrels of oil go into plastic production, 13 million tonnes of plastic leak into the ocean and 100,000 marine animals are killed by it.
“We have a problem that marine biologists and oceans experts have been warning us about for years but it is only now that the issue is so starkly in our sight that we are forced to face it”,” he remarked.
Madam Cordie Aziz, Executive Director of Environment 360, during a panel discussion, suggested the need to find ways of harnessing the value of plastics in Ghana, by creating closed loop systems that facilitate the trade of waste as a commodity.
“Plastic is only a nuisance when it is not handled properly, when it is handled properly then it becomes a valuable raw material for industries. In order to create value for plastics we need to look at feasible buy-back schemes, better support of private sector recycling initiatives and innovative ways to incorporate the informal sector into the value chain,” she said.
On practical solutions to reduce plastics, Madam Aziz reiterated the need to focus on educating people on the harmful effect of plastics and how to handle it using new and intensive methods.