As part of the celebration of the 2020 Season of Creation, Caritas Ghana, the relief and development agency of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference has organised a virtual stakeholder discussion targeted at how to properly management waste of electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) in Ghana.
The first virtual webinar series held on September 30, 2020, is one of Caritas Ghana’s key activities for the Season of Creation which is celebrated from September 1, the Day of Prayer for Creation to October 4, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology beloved by many Christian denominations.
Throughout the month-long celebration, the world’s 2.2 billion Christians came together to care for our common home. For the 2020 Season of Creation, the suggested theme is “Jubilee for the Earth: New Rhythms, New Hope.”
Ghana’s local virtual celebration spearheaded by Caritas Ghana is aimed to raise awareness of the environmental and health risk WEEE pose and to establish efficient ways for their management and disposal.
The two-hour discussion by four eminent personalities was on the topic: “Season of Creation – Inclusive Action for the Management of Waste of Electrical and Electronic Equipment in Ghana.”
The Season of Creation offers, in the words of Pope Francis, “individual believers and communities a fitting opportunity to reaffirm their personal vocation to be stewards of creation, to thank God for the wonderful handiwork which he has entrusted to our care, and to implore his help for the protection of creation as well as his pardon for the sins committed against the world in which we live.”
In concept note, the Chief executive of Caritas Ghana, Samuel Zan Akologo stated that “In this period when the Church celebrates the Season of Creation whilst fighting against the World’s deadly pandemic COVID-19, Caritas Ghana is committed to creating awareness about effective E-waste management as a means to sustain the Earth as Our Common Home whilst renewing our relationship with the Creator.”
“The rapid updates of modern technology and the surge in the use of electronic and electrical equipment over the last few years have come along with a steady increase in the amount of WEEE produced over a short period of time,” he said adding that “Many cities in Africa have unfortunately become dumpsites for the discarded Electronic wastes for many reasons causing environmental issues.”
According Mr. Zan Akologo, “the concern for E-waste is not only limited to the amount of waste generated, but also the challenges related to effective means of disposal and the accompanying health and environmental implications.”
The Caritas Ghana CEO expressed worry that in the case of Ghana, E-wastes are usually disposed of by improper methods such as burning at dumpsites to retrieve valuable elements such as copper whilst losing focus on personal safety and environmental protection.
Reflecting on the relevance of the Season of Creation especially among faith communities, the first speaker, Fr. Charles Boampong Sarfo, the Assistant Secretary General of the National Catholic Secretariat, Accra, said the Season of Creation is a time to renew our relationship with our Creator and all creation through celebration, conversion, and commitment together.
With the theme for this year’s celebration of the Season of Creation “Jubilee for the Earth,” he said the Church calls for prayer and action for our common home, noting that the Jubilee for the earth is call to humanity to let the trumpet sounds on the need to care for our common home.
Examining the relationship of Spirituality and the Environment, he encouraged the Clergy to preach eco-thematic homilies during the season while periodic penitential services should be organised with focus on sins committed against nature.
He noted that trhis year’s Season of Creation is a time to consider the integral relationship between rest for the Earth and ecological, economic, social, and political ways of living.
On her part, Madam Cynthia Bediako, the Chief Director of Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, highlighted the assessment of new, used and end-of-life EEE importation, progress with formulating e-waste policy, legal and regulatory frameworks, critical issues with changing attitudes among the Ghanaian population, and enforcement of laws.
She noted the Ministry was doing a lot to ensure the policies, legal and regulatory frameworks are implemented in order to protect the citizenry from the harmful effects WEEE.
Touching on Act 917 and its accompanying Legislative Instrument (LI2250) on Hazardous and Electronic Waste Control and Management, she explained that Government passed Act in 2016 to control the activities and the management of hazardous waste including electrical and Electronic equipment.
According to her, the Act has a provision for the designation of the external service provider, to verify, assess and collect the Advance Recycle Eco Fee on all electrical and electronic equipment, under the Fifth Schedule of Act 917, imported from all exporting countries.
She stated that the Ministry through GIZ has supported the Greater Accra Scrap Dealers Association in developing a constitution and is currently providing an office space at the Agbogbloshie to house the Association members.
Madam Bediako commended Caritas Ghana in its efforts in ensuring a sustainable E-waste management system in the country through advocacy and called on all stakeholders to come together to spread the news of the dangers of WEEE.
A Nanotechnologist working in different domains of international cooperation and sustainable development in Switzerland, Dr. Mariazel Maqueda López delved into the need for restriction of transboundary movements of used and end-of-life EEE from European countries and highlighted international e-waste efforts.
In her presentation, she made a case for international cooperation to stem illegal trade in electronic waste, saying that “the accelerated generation of e-waste and persistent trafficking of this high-risk waste stream towards developing countries present urgent environmental governance challenges on the global level.”
Touching on the uncertainties related to e-waste trading, she said “there is no special waste code associated with e-waste trading. Shipment of new electronic products, second equipment and e-waste are usually registered under the same goods codes.”
Dr. Maqueda López lamented the ambiguous regulatory policies, saying that due to the illicit nature of e-waste trading, such shipments are usually not properly reported or registered with customs. “It is likely that traders report false information to customs officials to avoid further checking,” she noted.
Reflecting on the moral and spiritual compass set by Pope Francis’ Laudato Si, the Archbishop of Cape Coast, Most Rev. Charles Gabriel Palmer-Buckle, highlighted on the Local Church’s response to the clarion call of Pope Francis, the urgency of our environmental challenge and propose new pathways.
Contributing to the discussion, the Archbishop asked Ghanaians to be stewards of the earth, God’s creation, and not act as owners, saying that since the earth is our common home, Christians and Ghanaians, in general, must remodel their lives.
He stressed that there was also the need for ecological conversion by caring for the earth and not destroy it, adding “We are here on earth to create but not decreate, we are here to enhance and not to destroy,” and called on all to endeavour to reverse the negative impact of environmental destruction.
According to Archbishop Palmer-Buckle who is also the President of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference, “we must admit that the earth is crying for respect,” adding we need integral ecological sensitivity, ecological conversion, ecological education, ecological justice, and stewardship.