10 Mar Canadian HerStart Fellows Support Plastic Waste Reduction in Ghana

Written by Shelly Steffler, HerStart Communications Fellow in Ghana 

Imagine this: you want to order take-out. Your meal is placed in a styrofoam container that never seems to close properly, so it’s closed with an elastic band. The container is put into a plastic bag, which is accompanied by plastic utensils
also held together with an elastic band.  

And when the state doesn’t provide adequate recycling or waste management, much of this waste ends up on the ground. Only 10% of plastic waste in Ghana is collected for recycling, even though plastics are heavily used. 

Norsaac, one of Youth Challenge International’s HerStart program partners in Tamale, Ghana, brought together stakeholders to discuss solutions to plastic waste for the Life Without Plastics dialogue. The event was funded through the Partner Innovation Fund, a component of the HerStart Innovate the Future program that aims to strengthen partner capacity and innovation.  

YCI’s HerStart Ghana Project Lead, Marie Vanderpuye, sat on the panel and led an inspiring introduction on the importance of addressing plastic waste. Three Canadian YCI HerStart Fellows were also in attendance, including Tara Carson, a Climate Action Fellow. The event fell during the first week of their placement. 

“As a Climate Action Fellow new to Ghana, the event was very informative because I learned about the main environmental issue in the country: plastic waste. I had a chance to listen to local perspectives on the issue and witness the community’s desire and push for change,” says Tara. 

Tara had a chance to participate in the discussion and went on to write an advocacy messaging plan for Norsaac during her fellowship. The organization hopes to continue its Life Without Plastics campaign, which encourages businesses to adopt biodegradable packaging to reduce environmental harm. 

“In my daily life here in Ghana, I try to embody this push for change. Whenever I go shopping, I always bring my own reusable bag and refuse the plastic ones offered. The shop owners are always surprised that I don’t take the plastics! But I explain to them why, and they understand,” Tara shares. 

Highlights of the dialogue included panel discussions from state institutions, media perspectives on the fight to reduce plastics and commitments from business owners to use biodegradable packaging materials. 

The event was led by Norsaac staff with business owners and ambassadors of Business Without Plastics in attendance, along with media and representatives from several state institutions.  

Through the Partner Innovation Fund and the Life without Plastics dialogue, Norsaac was able to gain buy-in from 40 business owners to move away from single-use plastics and towards biodegradable packaging, as well as promote green business alternatives provided by two HerStart entrepreneurs in Ghana. For Norsaac, the Partner Innovation Fund provided an opportunity to raise awareness on the impacts of plastics within their community and garner support for continued advocacy work needed to create sustainable change. 

Learn more about YCI’s HerStart Fellowships for Canadians of all ages to contribute their skills and gain international volunteer experience while collaborating with women and global partners to drive social entrepreneurship and gender equality.