Human activities inevitably lead to the generation of waste which must be managed to prevent environmental and health problems.
District Assemblies have long out-sourced waste management to private companies who visit our homes, work sites, schools, markets, among others to cart refuse packaged anyhow to designated landfill sites across the country.
Barely a year ago, the Kpone Landfill site, which is located in the Kpone-Katamanso District in the Greater Accra Region, was reported to be under pressure due to the high tonnage of refuse being dumped there from Accra, Tema, Ashaiman, and other areas.
The site could be decommissioned earlier than its 10 years’ lifespan because three out of its four cells that filter toxic fluid known as leachate from the refuse and also produce biogas and manure when compacted, were full as at April 2015.
The waste being dumped at landfill sites such as the Kpone Landfill site apart from having a huge amount of non-degradable plastic materials also contains a huge tonnage of organic waste.
Organic waste comprises of cooked food, fruits, vegetables, faecal matter, animal slaughter waste, plant based materials and any item that can easily decay.
According to environmentvictoria.org.au, these items when dumped and buried at the landfill sites, undergo anaerobic decomposition, because of the lack of oxygen and it then generates methane. This methane which is 20 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, is then released into the atmosphere.
We, however, have an option to either continue dumping our organic waste at the landfill site and contribute to global warming or on the other hand, use this valuable resource to our advantage as a country.
Due to the importance of recycling organic waste, a Dutch Company, Safi Sana Ghana Limited with support from the Dutch Embassy and the African Development Bank, has established the first organic waste to energy and fertilizer recycling plant in Ghana located at Ashaiman near the Adjei-Kojo State School for the Deaf.
In an interview with the Ghana News Agency at the plant, Mr Raymond Ategbi Okrofu, Country Manager of Safi Sana, said the 30 metric tonne capacity plant started full-scale operation in September 2015 after running on pilot basis for some years.
Mr Okrofu said Ashaiman alone generates about 80 metric tonnes of organic waste daily which is dumped on various dumping sites and on undesirable places.
The Safi Sana plant, he said, currently processes an average of 20 metric tonnes but could do more but for the difficulty in sorting out the organic waste which he referred to as “good waste” from the others.
The project could be termed as an integrated solution to most of the country’s problems as it provides jobs for the local people through the collection, transporting and sorting of waste.
After the sorting, the organic resource is put into a mixing pit, which is then transferred into an anaerobic digester which sits
about eight metres deep into the ground.
In the digester, microorganisms break down the biodegradable material due to the absence of oxygen through a series of biological processes.
One of the end products of these processes is biogas which has about 60 to 65 per cent of methane, this he explained, contribute to atmospheric warming when released.
The company harvests and channels it into a generator to produce between 1.5 and 1.6 megawatts of power daily even though it has a capacity of 2.4 megawatts.
This generated renewable power is added to the national grid as the Electricity Company of Ghana has an agreement to purchase the power produced Safi Sana.
After harvesting the gas, the residue effluent is then pumped to a drying bed where it is drained and the water treated for watering green grass and vegetable seedlings.
Mr Okrofu indicated that the material left behind is then scraped out and used as fertilizer for the seedlings which are sold out to registered farmers and the public.
He stressed that in the recycling of organic waste, every process produces useful materials making organic waste ‘good waste’ which must not be buried or discarded.
Sanitation wise, he noted that the more organic waste is recycled, the less the problem of waste and sanitation problems.
He explained that market women at Ashaiman who used to dump huge tonnes of organic waste especially rotten fruits and vegetables at refuse dumps and pay a minimum of five cedis daily now put them in containers provided by the company leading to a reduction in the amount of waste they throw away.
Waste collectors from the company visit these markets twice daily to pick up the organic waste saving the public the bad odour from the decomposing waste.
Safi Sana also receives waste from slaughter houses which otherwise could have been disposed of wrongly. Faecal matter is also discharged at the plant for recycling.
Safi Sana offers research opportunities to students and scientists. With its own well equipped laboratory, the company currently have five students from the University of Ghana and a PhD student from the University of Cape Coast undertaking research at the plant.
It is also working with the Biotechnology and Nuclear Agricultural Research Institute (BNARI), a subsidiary of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission and the University of Ghana, to develop hygienic composite sites in the country.
The biggest challenge of the company is the sorting out of organic waste from others. Due to ignorance and lack of legislations of pre-sorting, majority of Ghanaians dump degradable and non-degradable waste into one container.
Another challenge, he said, is the bureaucracy companies goes through to establish in Ghana. He stated that even though the plant could have been constructed in less than six months, it took them over one and a half years to go through the various bureaucracies at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Ministry of Agriculture, among others.
Mr Okrofu said even the Renewable Energy Act and laws allow for duty free on imports on agriculture and renewable energy production equipment, his company eventually had to pay huge duties and demurrage on equipment shipped into the country for the construction of the plant.
“It was so sad that some officials in-charge of duties at the Port do not even have an idea of existing regulations on such items,” he said.
What frustrates him most is that he sees daily some residents near the recycle plant defecating openly when a fit-for-purpose public toilet built for them by the company begs for attention.
To ensure that more tonnage of organic waste is recycled, Safi Sana is currently, designing one plant to serve two mining companies in Takoradi while putting in plans to construct at least eight in different parts of the country with the support of the Dutch Embassy
He however appealed to government and relevant state institutions to take keen interest in the project and support the company’s activities as it has an integrated solution to the country’s waste management problems.
He also called for pro waste recycle laws that would make sorted organic waste from industrial and commercial bodies available to recycle plants which would reduce the population’s dependence on dumping sites and the production of dangerous gases which threaten the very existence of the human race.