Informal waste sector in Ghana

In Ghana, the informal waste sector (IWS) is an important but often overlooked facet of waste management. Here are three interesting facts about the sector:

  1. Diverse activities of the IWS: The informal waste sector covers a wide range of activities, from the collection, repair and recycling of solid waste to the disposal of ferrous metals and waste electrical and electronic equipment. It can be broadly divided into two main groups: Informal Service Providers (ISPs) operating within the waste service chain and Informal Recyclables Collectors (IRCs) operating within value chains.


  1. Lack of recognition and monitoring: Particularly in the e-waste sector, the informal waste sector in Ghana has limited monitoring and institutional recognition. Although it makes a significant contribution to the Ghanaian economy – estimated to involve about 16,000 informal waste actors by 2020, providing livelihoods for about 200,000 people – it remains largely disconnected from the formal waste management system and lacks key support structures.


  1. Challenges to printer cartridge recycling: Surprisingly, there is no recognised company in Ghana that specialises in the treatment or recycling of printer cartridges. Cartridges are either dumped in landfills or, to a lesser extent, collected and sold to refillshops or dismantled for metal recovery. However, this practice is less common due to the low value of metals in the cartridge. There is untapped potential for collaboration between the informal waste sector and companies interested in collecting toner cartridges, creating opportunities for waste reduction and income generation for waste collectors.

The informal waste sector in Ghana represents both a challenge and an opportunity in Ghana’s waste management landscape and needs to be more widely recognised and integrated into formal systems.


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