Globally, plastic waste has become one of the most pressing environmental issues. In Ghana, over one million tons of plastic waste is generated each year and only between 2% to 5% of the plastic waste generated is being recycled. In efforts to curb the alarming rate of plastic pollution, many young Ghanaians are finding solutions.
Charles Katere is the Founder of Eco-Clean Ghana Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that recycles plastic waste into valuable products and creates entrepreneurial opportunities for others. Charles is one of the innovators who had the opportunity to exhibit his products at the Ghana Waste Fair 2021 organised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Coca-Cola Foundation and the Ghana National Plastic Action Partnership under the Ghana Waste Recovery Platform. The Ghana Waste Fair 2021 brought together over 300 stakeholders to dialogue and share ideas on how innovations can be upscaled to promote sustainable waste management in Ghana.
Charles narrates the positive impact and the transformation the Ghana Waste Fair brought to his business.
“I am Charles Katere, Founder of Eco-Clean Ghana. I collect plastic waste from our environment and turn them into valuable products such as eco-conference bags, shopping bags, and protective mobile phone bags. I have been in this business since 2016.
In 2016, I was only collecting plastic waste and advocating for waste and sanitation solutions in various schools in Ghana. Whiles embarking on the collection journey, I had the opportunity to attend a training on plastic waste where we were taken through the many opportunities available in the industry. It was at this training that I was inspired to venture into recycling in order to contribute more meaningfully to the protection of the environment and create livelihoods for people.
In 2021, I had my breakthrough when I participated and exhibited at the Ghana Waste Fair, which was led by UNDP. The fair provided a unique opportunity for me to showcase my products and demonstrate value of plastic waste. The waste fair was a door opener that turned my business around.
It opened doors for new partnerships for me. For instance, African Animal Welfare partnered with us to supply 180 pieces of our eco-conference bags. That was the beginning of our success story.
I also had the opportunity to partner with Leadership Community School and Beverly Hills Academy where we train school children periodically on how to turn plastics into useful product and also on waste management.
We also had over 20 individuals and institutions placing orders for our eco-conference bags after they saw a post on our products on UNDP Ghana’s social media pages. The truth is, after the visibility we had from UNDP, there has been massive pressure on us to produce more. As a results, we had to find another away to meet the demand that was coming. Initially, our products were mostly sold in the Northern Region of Ghana, but after the visibility from UNDP and the increase in demand, we had to expand, leading to the creation of two distribution centers in Accra located in Ashaiman and Lartebiokorshie to serve our clients in the South.
Before the 2021 Ghana Waste Fair, we were producing about 50 pieces of bags per month. But after the fair and the visibility from UNDP, we now produce between 100 and 200 bags per month. We increased our staff strength from two to eight including two volunteers.
It is my hope that more partners will come on board to support our expansion drive so we can employ more hands. I want to thank UNDP and other partners for helping shape the recycling journey of Eco-Clean Ghana through the Ghana Waste Fair, which connected us to more clients and also increased our visibility”.
Many young people are finding solutions to promote sustainable waste management. Charles's story is evidence of how we can support young innovators by providing them with the right platforms to connect to partners and resources. Putting a spotlight on their innovations will also draw partnerships and drive efforts towards a circular economy.