The Parliament of Ghana has passed an Act to streamline the activities in the waste collection and management industry to ensure a sound waste management and recycling systems to save the country's forests and future generation.
The Act, which was read the third time and passed on Thursday, provides for the control, management and disposal of hazardous waste, electrical and electronic waste in the country.
Hazardous waste generally refers to waste with properties that makes it potentially dangerous or harmful to human health or the environment and they include liquids, solids or gases which cannot be treated or disposed of by common means.
The management of hazardous waste has been on the international environmental agenda from the early 1980s ,when it was first included as one of the three priority areas in the United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP), Montevideo programme of Environmental law in 1981.
The Act will also ensure that harmful elements associated with hazardous and other waste products are captured and processed safely to preserve critical ecological components such as the soil, groundwater, flora and fauna.
The passage of the Act is also in fulfillment of Ghana's obligations under the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Waste , the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade as well as the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants .
The new Act prohibits the importation, exportation, transportation, selling, purchasing or dealing in or depositing of hazardous waste or other waste on any land in the country or in the territorial waters of Ghana.
It deals with hazardous waste and other waste and seeks to domesticate the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of hazardous Waste and their disposal, prescribes the Electrical and Electronic Waste levy and establishes a Fund as well as an Electronic Waste Recycling Plant.
Some of these wastes to be controlled under the act include old and broken-down computers, monitors and televisions sets and other electronic goods imported from Germany, Korea, Switzerland and the Netherlands under the false label of "second-hand goods."
Others include clinical wastes from medical care in hospitals, medical centers and clinics , wastes from the production and preparation of pharmaceutical products , wastes from the production, formulation and use of biocides and phytopharmaceuticals ,wastes from the manufacture, formulation and use of wood preserving chemicals, wastes from production, formulation and use of photographic chemicals and processing materials, wastes resulting from surface treatment of metals and plastics as well as residues arising from industrial waste disposal operations.
Under the law a person who contravenes sections of the Act commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine or to a term of imprisonment of not less than one year and not more than ten years or both.
Offenders are also liable for the cost of cleaning up any contamination caused by the hazardous waste or other waste and any other mitigating action required to deal with the effect of the waste.
The Electrical and Electronic Waste Management Fund to be established under the Act is expected to provide finance for the management of electrical and electronic waste and reduce the adverse impact on human health and the environment.
Money from the Fund shall be used to provide support for the construction and maintenance of electrical and electronic waste recycling or treatment plants, support research into methods of electrical and electronic waste preservation, prevention and control for research into electrical and electronic waste treatment and recycling, publication of reports, education of the public on the safe disposal of electrical and electronic waste and the negative effects of electronic waste.
A manufacturer or importer of electronic equipment under the new law is required to register with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and pay electronic waste levy in respect of electronic equipment that is imported into the country or manufactured in the country.
The levy is to cater for the costs of the collection, treatment, recovery and environmentally sound disposal and recycling of electronic waste.
A report of the Select Committee on Environment ,Science and Technology on the Bill indicates that the passage of the bill will enable Ghana avoid the eventuality of being a dumping grounds of waste products ,especially the hazardous ones ,by having actual and objective reports on the nature of shipment .