Focus: Waste and Consumer Goods
Location: Kumasi, Ghana
In Ghana’s two largest cities, Accra and Kumasi, 4,000 tonnes of waste is produced every day. Most of it is simply brought to landfills without separating recyclable and reusable materials. The rest piles up on the streets, polluting the environment and creating unsanitary conditions for people. In addition, when the rain falls, trash is washed into rivers and streams, contaminating them. Countries usually rely on governments to provide waste-management solutions, but in developing countries, governments have trouble keeping up with the growing amount of trash. Could there be a business model to address this problem?
To answer this question, artist Tei Huagie and entrepreneur Kwaku Kyei combined creativity and business to start Recycle Not a Waste Initiative (RECNOWA). They set themselves the mission of innovating with waste materials to create appealing fair trade goods while improving lives in Ghana through “job creation, poverty reduction and sustainable development.” Their program hires young people in Kumasi to collect waste they find in their neighborhoods, and pays them for every 50 kilograms they bring in. These materials are then upcycled into furniture, shoes, and other fashion products that generate the revenues needed to sustain and expand their efforts. RECNOWA also works in schools, teaching kids about recycling from a young age, involving them in cleaning up their communities, and giving them a small income to support their studies. RECNOWA embraces the principles of fair trade to create a more equitable international trade environment based on transparency and respect. They only consider their products a success if they are of quality design, create jobs, and are environmentally sustainable.
RECNOWA estimates that they collect and process 80 to 100 tonnes of trash each month and have cut CO2 emissions by 5,000 tonnes. In addition, they have contributed to creating cleaner communities and reduced the instances of waterborne diseases so it’s not just the environment that benefits, people too. RECNOWA has been recognized for their innovative program by the World Bank-Ghana Innovative Marketplace and Harvard University Women in Business Awards, among others. Currently, RECNOWA is partnered with the UNFCCC Momentum for Change. Could upcycling be the future for waste management in developing countries?
Environmental impact: Avoided water contamination, reduced landfills, avoided emission of GHGs and harmful substances
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