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Selling Nature to Save it? Water, Waste, and Recycling in Se

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Franklin Obeng-Odoom

on 11 October 2013

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Transcript of Selling Nature to Save it? Water, Waste, and Recycling in Se

Selling Nature to Save it? Water, Waste, and Recycling

Dr. Franklin Obeng-Odoom
The Chancellor's Postdoctoral Research Fellow
School of the Built Environment

Wide Influence....
Appropriate Technology Movement (1970s)
WCED (1987), Our Common Future
World Bank (1992), Environment and Development
World Bank (2009), Reshaping Economic Geography
European Commission (2011), Strategy for Smart, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth

Further Reading:
Paton G. J, 2010, Seeking Sustainability: On the prospect of an ecological liberalism, Routledge, London.

Part 2
Part 1
Plastic Waste
Private Water Service
Selling Nature to Save it
Examples (ETS, CT, Target's policy - until recently -on plastic bags)
Features (E.g., Using market signals/Prices to provide incentives for environmentally friendly behaviour and disincentives against polluting activities)
Bottom line: non-structural change; Market based, either market creating (new markets) or market adjusting(expanding existing markets)
Theory: Neoclassical economic theory (e.g. EKC)
For further reading, see Stilwell, F. (2012). Marketising the environment. Journal of Australian Political Economy, 68 (Summer), 108 - 127.
Historical Processes of Marketising Water Service and Creating Markets for Packaged Water

Deepening Markets for Plastic waste Collection and Creating Markets for Plastic Waste Recycling
Part 4
Just Change or a Just Change?
Part 3
Problems and Prospects
Phase 4
Empirical Referent: Ghana, W.Africa/Africa
Conclusion and Further Discussion
Part 5
Overlapping History of Water Privatisation (1,2,3)
Independence Era
State-led provision but examples of political (not racial) discrimination (e.g. 'water wars')
Pre Colonial Era
Greater Dependence on household provision
1983 -

Key Drivers:
Economic Rationalism, Modernisation, and Eurocentrism (1)


Specific Policy Choices
Golden Age of Business
Ministry of Modernisation
Mayors with American Work Experience (*American Dream*?)
*Globalizing City*

Colonial Era
State-led supply for the Colonial Administration and elite African civil servants
Dependence on streams, rivers, and wells
Greater Dependnce on the 'Self'
Dependence on Nature
Big State Involvement
Enter Plastic Packaging of Water

Plastic Waste
The actual size is not captured by any official estimate, although one estimate puts it at 250 tonnes/day generated mostly in cities (9). Plastic packaged water-related waste constitutes 85% (22).
Also no official estimates of the share of plastic waste in total waste, although one estimate puts it at 20% in GAMA and 3.5% in KMA (6).
High Environmental and social cost such as polluting river bodies and the ocean and this harms life in these spaces (10, 11).
Further, it harms the environment, especially when plastic waste is burnt but also when it stays in the soil for a long time (being biodegradable) (10, 11)
Managing P - Waste, privately...


(Source: both text and image, ZGL coporate website)

Recycling: The New Phase of Privatisation and Green Neoliberalism

According to the President the ‘focus is on waste and sanitation management systems not just waste collection and disposal. The emphasis will also be on waste recovery and recycling as well as providing incentives to increase private sector participation in the hygiene, sanitation and pollution control sector’ (Mahama, 2013: 15, emphasis added)
The incentives include 7-year tax holiday and, as is the case for other businesses, 100% transfer of profit is allowed - According to the Government's Doing Business in Ghana brochure (GIPC, nd)
Wide calls for recycling in the media
Calls by members of the legislature to support recycling
Encouragement of informal, private recycling business (e.g., by offering business premises)

Waste Merchants/Agents
Organised, but mostly self-employed. Some are migrants too and like pickers work under harsh conditions too. They may be known by officials (e.g., giving them 'offical residence'. Total no. in Ghana is about 250, with about 120 being regular at meetings in Accra

Function: Buy plastic (and other) waste from pickers and sell it to recycling companies
Recycling Companies
Mostly in Accra,
The ones elsewhere are not as developed/capitalised as those in Accra. So, most collected waste travels to Accra for recycling for the process of waste generation to commence again...
Poor, Elderly, Unorganised, Irregular, Part-timers, migrants, unrecorded and uknown in official statistics

Function: Gather and sell mostly plastic waste to agents.
The Recycling Model
1. Disequilibrium and Structural Imbalance
Oversupply of collected waste vis-a-vis what the recycling companies can buy
...as there are not enough companies to buy. Companies are springing up, but profits may be driven down. Or, there will simply be too much waste to buy - especially as recycling companies produce additional plastic products
Undercollection of Waste vis-a-vis what is littered
....as pickers are part-time and not enough for an increasing plastic waste crisis.
This is the current phase of disequilibrium.
E.g. The no. of water producers increased from 38 to 50 in Sekondi-Takoradi, but there was no corresponding increase in the number of pickers and/or agents.
Overproduction of packaged water
...as water producers try to reap more profits
Overconsumption of packaged water
as incomes increase and aggressive marketing is pursued
Environmental and Social hazards
of landfill disposals, especially for the poor ...as private waste companies

refuse to collect the waste of those who cannot pay for waste collection

dump waste collected from rich neighbourhoods and elsewhere in landfills located close to poor settlements

.... so the poor suffer a vicarious penalty
3. Social Conditions of Labour

Plastic water
producers employ some 147, 410 people and generate a tax of some $30 million annually to the government (18).

Waste management
companies (17 in Accra alone) give jobs to the urban youth as do recycling companies (19)

However, most of those employed work in
degrading conditions
(poorly paid, exploited, and work under harsh environmental conditions) (19, 20)
These experiences pose
great difficulty
for those who argue that nature can be sold to save it.

Not only do
market solutions
not entirely succeed in their claims but also
market based solutions
entail major
that are not just design issues but are
structural matters
that undermine
environmental integrity
Just a change, business as usual
a just change in the economic system
, or
? Capitalism has its charms and beauty, but it is not the only system.
Socialist ideals, drawing inspiration from the work of Karl Marx,
can be considered (see copious research in CNS).

1. Yeboah I, 2006, ‘Subaltern strategies and development practice: urban water privatization in Ghana’, The Geographical Journal, vol.172, No.1, pp.50-65.

2. Fuest V and Haffner S, 2007, ‘PPP – Policies, practices and problems in Ghana’s urban water supply’, Water Policy, vol.9, pp. 169 – 192.

3. Bohman A, 2010, Framing the Water and Sanitation Challenge A history of urban water supply and sanitation in Ghana 1909-2005, Doctoral Dissertation in Economic History, Umeå University, Umeå.

4. McCaskie, T, 2009, '"Water Wars" in Kumasi, Ghana.' In: Locatelli, Francesca and Nugent, Paul, (eds.), African Cities: Competing Claims on Urban Spaces. Leiden, Netherlands; Boston, MA: Brill, pp. 135-155. (African-Europe Group for Interdisciplinary Studies (Series), v. 3)

5. Stoler J, 2012, ‘Improved but unsustainable: accounting for sachet water in post-2015 goals for global safe water’, Tropical Medicine and International Health, vol. 17, no 12, pp 1506–1508.

6. Oteng-Ababio M, 2010, Private sector involvement in solid waste management in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area in Ghana’, Waste Management and Research, vol. 28, no. , pp. 322–329

7. Ghana News Agency, 2010, Report to better fight plastic waste submitted to government’, ghanaweb.com,
http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=176353 (accessed Jan 4, 2011).

8. Okioga T, 2007, ‘Water quality and business aspects of sachet-vended water in Tamale, Ghana’, Master of Engineering in Civil and Environmental Engineering, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, MIT.

9. Oil City Magazine, 2012, Green Ghana, vol. 3, issue 4, Takoradi.

10. Boadi K and Kuitunen M, 2003, Municipal Solid Waste Management in the Accra Metropolitan Area, Ghana’, The Environmentalist, vol. 23, pp.211-218

11. Weinaah M, 2007, ‘Sustainable waste management – A case of Accra, Ghana’, TRITA-LWR Master Thesis ISSN 1651-064X LWR –EX-07-10

12. Mahama J, 2013, ‘State of the Nation Address’, a national address given by the president at the Ghana Parliament House, Accra, February 21.

13. Ghana Investment Promotion Centre, n.d, Doing Business in Ghana, Ghana Investment Promotion Centre, Accra.

14. Ghana Food and Drugs Board, 2011, ‘Food and Drugs Board Operational Guidelines: Sachet water’ http://www.fdbghana.gov.gh/water.htm#, accessed on December 1, 2011.

15. Owusu S, 2010, ‘Zoomlion’s methods of waste disposal: An environmental concern’, The Mail, November 25.

16. Njeru J, 2006, The urban political ecology of plastic bag waste problem in Nairobi, Kenya’, vol. 37, Geoforum, pp.1046-1058.

17. Grant R, 2009, Globalizing City. Urban and Economic Transformation of Accra, Ghana, Syracuse University Press, New York.

18. Ghana News Agency, 2010, Report to better fight plastic waste submitted to government’, ghanaweb.com,
http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=176353 (accessed Jan 4, 2011).

19. Owusu S, 2010, ‘Zoomlion’s methods of waste disposal: An environmental concern’, The Mail, November 25.

20. Obeng-Odoom F, 2014, 'Green Neoliberalism: Recycling and Sustainable Urban Development in Sekondi-Takoradi', Habitat International, vol.41, pp. 129-134.

21. Pellow D and Chazan N, 1986, Ghana: Coping with Unce Uncertaintly, Wetview Press, London

22. Justin Stoler, John R. Weeks and Günther Fink, 2012, Sachet drinking water in Ghana’s Accra-Tema
metropolitan area: past, present, and future', Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development | 02.4


The boom in plastic packaging and bags is a blessing.

'Era of Decline' (22)

post state-led development to overcome so-called 'state-led development problems'

Selling Nature to save it is a choice...it is not natural; only naturalised

It was not driven by massive crisis in public health but by certain political economic interests (which, on the contrary, have engendered major public health issues...)

....although as Oscar Wilde is said to have observed, 'the problem with socialism is that it entails too many evenings'.

Social democratic systems

exist as an alternative, drawing on the ideas of Karl Polanyi (considering the economy as 'embedded' in society and environment)

Radical property owning democracy
is also possible, drawing on the insights of Henry George (making nature common property) see The Georgist Journal
We can make other choices, drawing on established corpus of knowledge

Or ideas from history, regarding non-commodification of nature, collective decision making, and better planning of the environment, economy, and society

A fine balance? What to choose? How to get *there* from *here*?


Panyin de Panyin
Bottled water (4, 5)
The construction of plastic packaged water as
Between 2003 and 2009, there was a
439% increase
in the no. of people who were dependent on packaged water in Accra (6)

There are
over 2, 700 producers
of packaged water in Ghana claiming, although unproven, to be producing
'purer water'

Cf. about 300 producers in 2005 (1), so there has been some
800% increase
in the no. of plastic water producers in
the last 8 years.
Full transcript