Recycle Up! Ghana Empowers Youth to Develop Local Solutions for Environmental and Societal Problems

Recycle Up! Ghana (RUG) aims to train and empower the Ghanaian youth and as well provide the platform for them to tackle the plastic waste challenge in the country.

RUG believes the severe plastic waste pollution in Ghana is due to the lack of awareness on most people in Ghana. Furthermore, there is the lack of infrastructure to engage people on the proper waste management. With that said, Recycle Up! Ghana focuses on young people, high school pupils, university students and young entrepreneurs who are the change-makers to create a more sustainable future for Ghana and beyond. Through this project, RUG has made 4,500 outreach programs on plastic waste management, engaged with over 23 schools in 3 cities with the help of over 60 volunteers.

Ghana was ranked the 10th worst country on its sanitation performance globally according to the Joint Monitoring Programme report "Progress on sanitation and drinking water: 2015 update and MDG assessment”. Massive amounts of improperly treated plastic waste contaminate landscapes especially in densely populated urban areas. Plastic bags and bottles pollutes streets, open spaces, rivers, and beaches. This poses threat to the local population in various ways including clogging of open drains, which could lead to flood and diseases outburst. Open burning of plastic waste, unsecured landfills sites and entry of plastics into the oceans lead to the release of hazardous toxins, air pollution and potential groundwater contamination and threat to marine environment, respectively.

Recycle up! Ghana´s objectives are:  

Recycle UP! Ghana carries out several projects to create a more sustainable future for Ghana.

These activities include:

1.       Recycle Up! Incubator: this program develops young entrepreneurs who are in their pursuit of innovative entrepreneurial solutions and large-scale societal impact which contributes towards the attainment of the sustainable development goals (SDGs). A 6-month non-resident incubator program to foster innovative ideas and to coach social startups that tackle environmental, economic, and societal problems in Ghana.

2.       Recycle Up! National Waste Education Campaign (NWEC): aims at cooperating with schools across the nation to provide environmental education to pupils and students as well as installing a culture of waste reduction, source segregation, and recycling among the Ghanaian youth. This will be done through awareness creation work, hands-on learning experiences as well as the provision of facilities for source segregation of PET bottles and water sachets.

3.        Recycle Up! Summer camp: a two week long intense training event which aims at equipping young talented Ghanaians with the right tools to become agents of change in their society. It follows a threefold character which begins with the so-called knowledge phase about environmental and waste management knowledge and soft-skill development. In the following experience phase, participants explore their local areas through different kinds of field trips. The ultimate solutions phase encourages participants to develop and design possible solutions to the waste challenges identified and implement them in their educational institutions.

4.       Recycle Up! Startup weekend: a weekend long event during which groups of students and young entrepreneurs come together to develop new ideas to tackle the waste management challenge through an entrepreneurial approach. During the weekend, the young change-makers pitch their ideas, form teams, and work hard on developing their ideas further together. On Sunday evening those ideas are presented to a group of judges. The program provides young spirited entrepreneurs with the appropriate methods to take their ideas to the next level and build a supporting network of like-minded change makers.

5.       Recycle Up! Your school: combines children empowerment through education with the infrastructural provision of waste segregation systems at schools. It is mainly driven by students from junior and senior high schools gathering schoolmates to establish Recycling Clubs at their respective schools. These students act as ambassadors creating awareness about plastic pollution among the kids and promoting waste segregation as a means of solving this problem locally on their school compounds. Participating schools act as role models for the children and support a more environmentally aware and empowered generation of change-makers.

Eduplast: "Education on Plastic Waste”, represents an online and offline awareness creation project driven by university students from University of Ghana in Accra. The project does educate the University of Ghana populace and beyond about plastics and waste in general, latest news in these fields as well as presentation of pragmatic solutions to the plastic waste menace. Activities include mass education on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, the University’s Radio Universe as well as pre-lecture and church addresses.

7.       Campus Dustbin Project: focuses on the provision of waste segregation and disposal systems on university campuses and the establishment of a well-functioning network between universities and local plastic waste buyers to enable further processing and recycling of produced waste. Generated revenues from selling collected wastes are reinvested into the project aiming at a self-sustainable expansion. This project seeks to create more awareness among university students and staff members about plastic pollution and ways to tackle it locally.  Eduplast and the Campus Dustbin Project has metamorphosed into the University of Ghana Plastic Recycling project (UGPRP) which is now the biggest campus-wide Recycling program in Ghana.

8.       REBECA – the Recycle Up Electronic Buddy for Education and Awareness presents an innovative and interactive way of storytelling: instead of having to read a long newspaper article, e.g. about marine litter, REBECA can engage with you in your favorite messenger app and confront you with a bite-sized piece of information. It asks for your opinion or comment and depending on what you reply, tells you something more.

RUG has so far supported the setup of 6 startups who will be graduating on 8th August 2020 as part of the incubator program. The startup weekend serves as a funnel to ignite the creation of new ideas of which some of them end up in the Incubator program for further support. It has created over 15 startup ideas with five of them participating in the incubator program. The National waste education campaign (NWEC) is already working on a waste education handbook and publish standard educational materials which will be made open source to be able to replicate their teachings in various locations. The project is still ongoing and runs until the end of 2021. 

 Since 2014 RUG has implemented six Summer Camps in the cities of Accra, Cape Coast and Kumasi. Through that, they have trained more than 150 young Ghanaian change makers and almost 30 projects on waste management implemented. Recycle Up! Your School has accounted for the empowerment of school children to become "waste ambassadors” in their schools through education coupled with the provision of infrastructural waste segregation systems.  About 50 tons of plastic sachets and bottles have been collected and sold to local recycling companies in Ghana. This program currently runs in 22 schools in Kumasi, Cape Coast and Accra in Ghana as well as various additional schools in Togo, a neighboring country from Ghana. 

"Education on Plastic waste” (Eduplast) has won the admiration from many lecturers and faculty members at the University of Ghana. The institute of Environment and Sanitation Studies at the university has recommended to extend the project to a greater coverage. Regarding the campus dustbin project, RUG has helped to set up waste infrastructure in over 30 educational institutions including Yaa Asantewaa Girls SHS, Prempeh College, Sunflower School Accra, KNUST, University of Ghana, University of Cape Coast etc. Finally, the REBECA project produced an interesting outcome after its pilot with the use of a plugin on Facebook. Generation of content from the NWEC project are ongoing to be fed into this electronic platform.

Absence of policies and regulations as well as the lack of awareness on the part of authorities in some schools or institutions make it difficult to reach out to more children. Additionally, insufficient funds to cater for dustbins, tricycles and incentives for volunteers limit the company from reaching out to more schools and other institutions. Another challenge has to do with the lack of proper market for recyclables especially in rural areas. This limits the ability to extend the project to other parts of the country where recycling firms are not close by. However, the awareness campaigns are gradually sticking in the mindset of people especially school children and manifesting through their actions in the various schools.These challenges can be improved by EPR policy frameworks coupled with proper financing mechanisms to extend the awareness campaigns to more schools in Ghana and increase the collection rate of plastic bottles and sachets in these institutions.     

Plastic pollution is one of the widespread environmental problems in the whole world. Regarding developing countries, it is mostly because of the lack of knowledge and infrastructural systems. As such, business models to educate the youth on plastic waste can be explored locally and implemented in other similar countries to prepare these future leaders to take sustainable decisions. Their big vision is to see the Recycle Up! model being scaled up in several parts of the world using the model Recycle Up! [Country]. We are already in talks with some partners to set up Recycle Up! India and Recycle Up! Nigeria. Ultimately our vision is to see a world free of waste, a world where waste is seen as a valuable resource thereby leading to a more circular and inclusive economy.

Recycle Up! Ghana engages with school children, young entrepreneurs, experts, and foreign stakeholders in their various projects. The organization stands out among the other plastic waste collectors by empowering its stakeholders through education and provision of infrastructural waste separation systems.  In addition, the organization continues to engage young entrepreneurs through the incubator program in a virtual way during the covid-19 pandemic.

Engagement with innovative and seasoned experts in the waste management field for the various programs brings the company in parallel with state-of-the-art trends. This helps to lessen gaps and challenges. Recycle Up! Ghana takes records of all outreach programs and quantities of plastic waste collected to evaluate their activities. 

Projects carried out by Recycle Up! Ghana are funded by organizations including Brot für die Welt, Germany, Google Germany, Germany Embassy Accra, and "genial sozial” campaign of Sächsische Jugendstiftung, Germany. Recycle Up! Ghana gets additional revenue from selling of plastic sachets to local recycling companies.

Tottoe Street
GHA - Kumasi

phone: +233 24 272 7840

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