Ghana generates about 1.1 million tonnes of plastic waste per year. Due to a lack of proper waste management, only about 5% is recycled; the rest often ends up in the environment, is burnt or finds its way to a landfill. Most of these problematic plastics are single-use plastics (SUPs), which have a significant negative effect on both humans and wildlife. Plastic management in Ghana has not been enough to effectively address the issue. In 2021, Ghana Youth Environmental Movement (GYEM) launched a campaign to combat the issue of plastic pollution. The goal is a ban on single-use plastics in Ghana by 2025.

Header photo: Gloria Agyare (left) campaigns against plastic pollution. © GYEM

Ghana Youth Environmental Movement

Gloria Agyare, one of the organisers of the campaign, has been with GYEM for several years. As a young person herself, she feels drawn to the unique youth-led approach that GYEM has. ‘More than 50% of Ghana’s population are young people. So the future of our country really depends on them. We have to work with them if we want to work towards a better Ghana, to build the sustainable future we envision as a country. Collaboration is key in the work we do and for this reason GYEM works together with other environmental organisations, including Reusable Bags Ghana, and IUCN NL-partner A Rocha Ghana to champion this cause.’

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Experience the trailer by the Ghana Youth Environmental Movement (GYEM) advocating for the ban on single-use plastics.

The campaign against SUPs

Gloria explains: ‘Ghana has already seen the impact of plastic pollution. It’s time for a transition away from plastic. Fortunately for Ghana, we have examples to inspire us from across the continent, even beyond. For a sustainable future, we do not want plastic. We want to leave it behind.’

‘The ultimate dream is that we achieve our vision, which is a ban on single-use plastics by 2025. Seeing people from all over Ghana rallying for this cause proves to me that this is achievable. The people are the ones with the power. I would like to see Africans going back to their indigenous ways of living like going to the market with their own baskets and also seeing a change in mind-set.’

Together with a ban on single-use plastics, GYEM also works on empowering the public through providing them with information and knowledge on the negative effects of plastic pollution, and promoting locally available sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics. In November, they organised two events for the local public.

‘As part of our campaign we had two durbars, which are small gatherings of people: one at Kaneshie market, one at Accra Tema Lorry Station. We chose these two locations specifically because it is a place where a lot of single-use plastics are sold and used. At the durbar, we spoke on the effect of single-use plastics on the environment and on people. Furthermore, we taught our audience, particularly market women how to upcycle old clothes into reusable bags for shopping. Anyone who was just passing by, going about their day, was welcome. The goal was to sensitise as many people as possible.’

Strengthen the Roots

IUCN NL, GYEM and A Rocha Ghana work together in the project Strengthen the Roots. Strengthening the Roots supports small community organisations that stand up for nature in and around their communities, enabling them to mobilise local support for their work. Small organisations are put in touch with larger conservation organisations to strengthen their networks. In Ghana, A Rocha Ghana trains nine small ngo’s and community-based organisations, including GYEM, on local resource mobilisation and fundraising.

‘Funding is critical for movements like ours,’ Gloria explains. ‘Over the past years, we have mobilised funds through various initiatives to propel the work we do at the grassroots. We’ve also received training from Strengthen the Roots. This has provided us with insights on stakeholders and ways to generate funds as a youth movement to push our agenda. We seek to do more leveraging through this training.’

More information? Contact:

Sander van Andel
Senior Expert Nature Conservation