Environment360, Ghana, supports informal sector plastic waste collectors to reduce plastic litter in coastal communities

Environment360 works with informal sector plastic collectors in coastal communities throughout Ghana to help combat marine litter by ensuring plastic waste is collected from communities before it enters into waterways. According to World Bank, 80% of marine litter comes from land based sources. Fishermen in Ghana pull in nets full of plastic waste each day. Plastic bottles wash up each day in the coastal communities. This phenomena not only affect life on land but life below the sea and consequently leading to the potential contamination of some portion of the food chain by plastic waste. Environment360 works with all players along the waste management value chain to decrease the amount of indiscriminate dumping of waste in coastal and urban communities. The organization has empowered 300 waste pickers and supported 32 additional people with specialized training for their businesses.

Environment360, Ghana

Background, Need and Objectives: Marine litter in Ghana is mainly due to improper waste management. Other factors include increased consumer goods consumption, inadequate design, production processes and packing of goods as well as irresponsible littering behavior. Furthermore, 80% of residents in coastal communities have no waste services. By providing business and capacity training to informal sector workers, Environment360 supports the creation of sustainable plastic collection businesses by helping informal sector collectors create collection routes build relationships with local recyclers. This helps to improve the livelihood of the community waste pickers and their environment. Environment360 aims to support informal sector plastic collectors s to increase plastics recovered and recycled in the coastal communities, increase daily wages of waste pickers and as well increase the number of waste pickers with access to social benefits.

Actions and Implementation: Through its work, Environment360 trains informal plastic waste collectors on best business practices, ethics, leadership, as well as identification of materials. The organization has also created 4 community collection points in Accra and Kumasi through funding from the German Federal State of North Rhine Westphalia. Environment360 organizes informal sector plastic collectos around these collection points and allows them to form working teams to collect plastic.    Each micro-collection group has a leader who is responsible for training their network of collectors and ensuring quality of materials picked. Those leaders then gather materials and sell their plastics to established collection points. In addition to payment for plastics, Environment360 also tests a variety other incentives such as registration on the national health insurance scheme, micro-loans and lottery type prizes to incentivize collectors to collect more. This model is unique because it seeks to strengthen informal sector plastic collectors businesses versus employing them in low paying jobs.  Periodic education campaigns are also organized to help these communities understand the need to preserve the beaches and marine life.


Waste picker from Old Fadama preparing to sale materials

Outcomes and Impacts: Through its work, Environment360 has trained more than 300 waste pickers and has supported the development of 20 micro collection groups that work from four different collection stations. The organization has helped informal sector plastic workers  collect more than 120 tons of plastic from their communities. Of this an estimated 30 tons has been picked from the beaches and recycled. 60% of the informal sector plastic collectors Environment360 work with are women.  The organization has also facilitated relationships with private sector companies to help support the transport of plastics from the collection point to the recycler in order to help reduce the cost of transportation for these informal sector workers.

Members of Oforikrom Dagomba Scrap Dealers Association after a training in Kumasi

waste pickers 

Creative Capacity Building Seminar training for Jamestown informal plastic collectors

Challenges: An inadequate plastic value chain continues to limit the collection of informal sector plastic collectors. With lack of storage areas and high transportation costs, many informal plastic collectors struggle to create sustainable businesses. Lack of access to financial instruments also limits the buying power of informal sector plastic collectors as well. The absence of regulatory instruments and its enforcement also make the job difficult. The lack of awareness on the part of the people along the coast and tourists adds to the challenge. To address the marine litter problem, investments and efforts should be channeled at reduction of litter at source of origin, particularly an increase in training programs for informal sector plastic collectors and the creation of micro-loan schemes. Additionally, other measures including improvement of municipal solid waste management, establishment of regulatory instruments and effective public campaigns could help reduce marine litter.

Replicability and Scalability: Environment360’s work can easily be replicated given the opportunity for inclusivity in terms of involving all concerned stakeholders such as municipal authorities, consumers, recyclers and external agents. Successful replication should also be coupled with public education to ensure the society understands the need to tackle marine litter. A congenial atmosphere to make indigenous people in the coastal communities feel proud as informal plastic waste collectors and part of solving the marine litter problem would be a key to scale up.

Inclusive and Innovative: Environment360 partners with local, national, and foreign stakeholders for its project implementations. Such stakeholders include Tema Traditional Council, municipal assemblies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Women in Informal Employment Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO),  private sector and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). One distinguishing feature of Environment360’s work is the development of critical partnerships, such as recyclers and municipal assemblies, and a trainer of the trainer program that helps ensure informal sector plastic collectors gather quality materials that can be used on the local recycling market.  

Accountability and Sustainability: Environment360 tackle gaps and challenges by organizing training, awareness campaign and workshop programs for all stakeholder. Environment360 also asks for feedback from stakeholders. This helps to report, account and tailor the entire system and develops partnerships with key stakeholders to ensure sustainability of its projects.

Budget and Resources Allocated: Environment360 has received contributions for its work from GIZ through the German Federal State of North Rhine Westphalia, Danone Ecosystem Fund and various private sector players such as FanMilk, Accra Brewery Limited and GRIPE.