The Ministry of Science Environment Science Technology and Innovation (MESTI) says it would liaise with the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development to criminalize the use of plastic in kenkey and banku preparation.
Dr Kweku Afriyie, Minister, MESTI, said the by-law to criminalise the practice would ensure that people caught preparing kenkey and banku with plastic were prosecuted for endangering the lives of consumers.
The Minister said studies had found that certain chemicals could leach out of the plastics into the foods and beverages.
“Some of these chemicals have been linked to health problems such as metabolic disorders, including obesity and reduced fertility.
Health experts have raised concerns about the use of polyethylene to wrap the corn dough used in preparing Fante kenkey.
Boiling food, especially kenkey in plastics, poses a serious health hazard to consumers.
The meeting also afforded the Minister the opportunity to sensitise the Caterers on the effects of plastics on the environment and the need to reduce their use in food packaging. The Caterers were to use alternatives such as glasses and paper packaging.
According to the Minister: “Leaching could occur even faster and to a greater degree when plastics were exposed to heat.”
“Before the invention of these banku rubbers, our old folks were still storing Banku for more than a week without spoilage and any health hazards.
As a matter of fact, they rather used materials that had the potential to add other health benefits to the banku.”
He said the soaring plastic use and the consequence of poor plastic waste management had led to widespread littering along riverbanks and beaches as well as the spread of some diseases.
Dr Afriyie said Ghana was now generating close to one million metric tonnes of plastic waste annually with less than 10 per cent being recycled.
He said the public concern about plastics in the environment had become a major issue due to the aesthetic, environmental and health challenges they presented.
According to him, although plastic shopping bags had brought about convenience, they had created serious environmental problems for many countries, especially in developing countries where recycling technology was not adequate.
“For catering companies and professional kitchens, one of the biggest environmental factors is excess packaging.
This packaging comes in the form of containers for food items, plastic wraps for ingredients and in many cases, disposable cutlery, and utensils,” he noted.
The Minister said his objective for the meeting with the caterers was for all to arrive at a consensus on how ” we can partner to reduce the use of single-use plastics in our food packaging.”
According to him, the plastic crisis was not only a governmental issue, but it involved all and there was also the need to find a lasting solution to it.
The Minister announced that his outfit had developed a concept for plastic management where the whole country would be divided into cells or grids and each cell or grid or multiples of it would be assigned to the Association of Plastic Waste Pickers to work in.
“The concept is that an area in each segment will be assigned to a particular group of Plastic Waste collectors and the incentives will be provided for the pickers only when plastics, including those terms as orphan plastics (Olonka, bread, Banku, kenkey and Koko rubbers) are not found in the segment after monitoring.
The concept will be piloted for six months and evaluated and if the success rate is high, the Ministry would replicate it in other parts of the Greater Accra Region, he said.
Dr Afriyie said his ministry was working with other “sister’ Ministries and Agencies to make the government’s vision of making Ghana one of the cleanest countries, a reality.