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Nothing Is wasted

Nothing Is wasted

As of November 29th, 2014, 217 people had died from 27,900 reported cases of cholera in Ghana in that year alone. Many of the cases (about 70%) were reported in the Greater Accra region including the districts of Accra Metro and La-Dadekotopon. Cholera is a bacterial disease that is most often spread by eating food or drinking water contaminated by feacal matter or untreated sewage.

Sprawling the coastlines of Accra, Ghana’s capital is an unforgettable sight. On a daily basis, at least 120 tank trucks discharge untreated liquid waste, mostly fecal sludge, into the Atlantic Ocean. Few meters from this place is where Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, Ghana’s premier teaching hospital is situated. It is called Lavander Hill and it is an irony onto itself. It is neither a gated community that its name suggests nor what Ghana’s new status as a lower middle-income country brings. It is a part of the ocean that no-one swims or fishes in. It is stenchy and the unnatural brown color of the water gives away its story of unabated abuse. On the horizon, Jamestown lighthouse provides a powerful reminder of the remnants of colonial intelligences.


According to the World Water Assessment Program, more than 85 percent of the human waste generated in sub-Saharan Africa is dumped into the environment without any treatment. It is this that might cause some environmental diseases and contamination. Water-borne diseases alone claim estimated 2 million people worldwide every year. In 2011, a team led by Kartik Chandran, (associate professor of Earth and Environmental Engineering at Columbia University) along with colleagues Ashley Murray (founder and director of Waste Enterprisers) and Moses Mensah of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, received USD 1.5 million from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to set up ‘’Next Generation Urban Sanitation Facility.’’ It aimed at turning ‘’ feces found in sewage into biodiesel and methane by converting a waste-processing facility into a bio refinery.’’ Earlier this year, Bill Gates wrote about the steam engine-powered device called the Omniprocessor, manufactured by the Seattle-based Janicki Bioenergy which treats wastewater by eliminating disease-causing sewage from the environment and converting it into clean, drinkable water.

Applications of human waste does not end there, in 2014, Rich Earth Institute started investigating urine as a possible replacement of chemical fertilizers. Urine contains nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. These are essential plant nutrients that are usually mined from the earth or the air for agricultural use.


Like sewage, plastic waste is also a menace in Ghana. An official communication of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly in 2010 said than 9000 tons of wastes are generated in Accra daily, out of which 315 are plastic. It is estimated that plastic water sachets account for about 85 percent of that refuse. Not only do these block drainage system, but they also serve as breeding places for mosquitoes and other vectors. Tuma Viela, an initiative of the Tamale-based Adwuma Ye Foundation recycles plastic into school bags, raincoats, hats, caps, plastic sheets and shopping bags

Trashy bags produce wallets and clutches, shoulder bags, laptop bags, laptop and tablet sleeves, travel and gym bags from plastic billboards and fabrics. In 2011, a house was built in Nigeria from bottles packed with sand, placed on their side, one on top of the other and bound together with mud.


Paper is commonly used. It is often said that it has seven generations.  With a few exceptions, anything that is 100% paper can be recycled. Recycled newspapers can be made into cereal boxes, egg cartons, pencil barrels, grocery bags, tissue paper and many other products, including new newspapers. Furthermore, many household artifacts can be creatively recycled into something else for use at home.  This website gives some ideas. (Here)

Recycling is the third arm of modern waste hierarchy – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – in the waste reduction approach. It is the process of changing waste materials into new products of potentially useful materials.

Nothing Is Wasted

‘’What would you do if your broken coffee cup was the last thing you had on Earth?’’ That appears on the website of Wheel Story House. Built by the junk architect, Ansah Sammy, wheel story house, a 12-room livable apartment built completely from recycled and reclaimed materials, is a beauty beyond imaginations.  Beyond its aesthetics, it is a powerful remainder of a narrative that has not been treated fairly. AMP led by the architect, D.K. Osseo Asare shares information on  how to make things out of “waste” Electrical and Electronic Equipment. Their approach is to design and build a knowledge database and set of tools for e-waste processing and digital fabrication.

In Ewe mythology of creation, there is a thought that Mawu-Lisa, the Creator uses dead bodies to create new ones resulting in resemblances between parents and offspring. In that worldview, no body escapes the cosmic world. They are held in an isolated system. Even in that world, we are taught that nothing is waste. From the old ones, they can be new ones. From trash, they can treasures.

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