Municipal Solid Waste Management in Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolis, Ghana
The rapid increase in urban population due to the influx of the citizenry in search for better conditions of life has resulted in poor environmental conditions in most urban and peri-urban settlements in the country. Municipal solid waste management (MSW) for that matter has become problematic within Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolis as the city is being inundated with so much filth which has proven to be very difficult and seemingly impossible for the municipal authorities to tackle. This study investigates the nature of solid waste problem in Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolis. A mixed methodological approach including field investigation, questionnaire survey, and structured and face-to-face interviews were employed in the gathering of data for the study. The key findings established to be the factors affecting effective solid waste management in the metropolis are irregular solid waste collection, inadequate operational funding, inappropriate technologies, inadequate staffing, inadequate skip, and lack of cooperation on the part of the citizenry.
Though the need for solid waste management became necessary ever since nomadic life was discarded, the initial concern of society was on movement of waste out of the immediate human settlement. This was largely possible because, during the prehistoric era, human population was quite low and the amounts of waste generated were quite minimal and biodegradable . The proper management of solid waste became a major problem overwhelming practically all communities of the world today as a result of growing human population, changes in habits and lifestyle, rising disposable income, technological and scientific advancement, and increasingly greater production and consumption of new products . These factors have acted in concert to increase both the quantity and complexity of waste being generated. This have long rendered ineffective and detrimental any waste management strategies dependent on nature’s capacity in the nullification of those substances. In Ghana, deficiencies in solid waste management (SWM) are most visible in and around urban and peri-urban areas . Despite the present concerns of individuals and the government about waste management in Ghana, Sekondi-Takoradi, one of the urban towns in the country, is still faced with serious solid waste management problems . The worsening solid waste situation in many urban settlements in Ghana and in Sekondi-Takoradi in particular has been a major concern both to the government and the indigenes as a whole. This is because the health implications of poor waste management can be very damaging to the people exposed to such unsanitary conditions. The rationale therefore of any proper instituted waste management is to protect the environment from the polluting effects of waste materials in order to protect public health and the natural environment . The rapid increase in population and business activities in Sekondi-Takoradi has presented several challenges which have been accompanied by a rapid increase in the volume of solid waste generated from production and consumption activities. Against this backdrop of mounting waste production, municipal authorities in Sekondi-Takoradi seem unable to organize adequate collection and safe disposal of waste within their jurisdiction.
In view of that, urban settlement in the country and most especially Sekondi-Takoradi metropolitan area which is the prime focus for this study is inundated with so much filth which proves to be very difficult and seemingly impossible to control, manage, or solve and thus threatens public health and the environment . The deplorable state of municipal solid waste (MSW) situation within Sekondi-Takoradi metropolis is reflected in the titles of most newspapers and online articles: “Sanitation worsens in Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolis” ; “Sanitation problem in Takoradi is out of control” ; “Filth engulfs Sekondi-Takoradi as landfill site chokes” ; “STMA losing battle against filth” ; “Sekondi-Takoradi’s sanitation dilemma, Metro set to re-assign contract” .
The main objective of the study was to examine the factors affecting effective solid waste management in the Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolis so as to get a better understanding of what the problems of solid waste management are and provide proper strategies to tackle the problem.
2.1. Description of the Study Area
2.1.1. Location and Size
Sekondi-Takoradi metropolitan area is located between latitudes 4°52′30′′ N and 5°04′00′′ N and longitudes 1°37′00′′ W and 1°52′30′′ W. Bounded to the North of the metropolis is the Mpohor-Wassa District, to the south by the Gulf of Guinea, to the west by the Ahanta West District, and to the east by Shama District. The metropolis happens to be the smallest district in the region with a land area of 385 km2. However, it is the most populated district. The metropolis is strategically located in the south-western part of the country, about 242 km to the west of Accra the capital city and approximately 280 km from the La Côte d’Ivoire in the west. Figure 1 is a map of the study area .
Major towns in the metropolis include Essikado, Kwesimintsim, Ketan, Sekondi, and Takoradi (Figure 2).
The metropolis has an equatorial type of climate. Vegetation is highly woodland in the northern and central parts, while thicket is intermingled with tall grass species along the coast, especially in areas where there are no permanent crops. The land cover of the metropolis can broadly be categorized into five types, namely, moderately closed tree canopy with herb and bush cover, moderately dense herb or bush with scattered trees, mosaic of thickets and grass with or without scattered trees, planted cover, and settlements .
The metropolis lies within the south-western equatorial zone. It has fairly uniform temperature, ranging between 22°C in August and 30°C in March. The metropolis has a mean annual rainfall of 2,350 mm. It experiences heavy rainfall in May and June with the minor rainfall occurring between September and October. Sunshine duration for most part of the year averages 7 hours per day. Relative humidity is generally high throughout the year between 50% and 70% in the dry season and 75% and 85% in the wet season .
2.1.4. Topography and Geology
The metropolis is of varied topography. The Central area of Takoradi is low lying with an altitude of 6 m below sea level. Fortunately, the numerous low-lying areas in the metropolis are interspersed with ridges and hills ranging from 30–60 m high. Sekondi-Takoradi is characterized by faulted shales and sandstones of various types resting on a hard basement of granites, gneiss, and schists. The faulting system has marked influence on the landform especially along the coastline which clearly follows the main fault direction of north east .
2.1.5. Economic Profile
The metropolis is the third most industrialized and the largest city in Ghana and it is gradually emerging as the “Oil City” since the discovery of oil in commercial quantity in the country. The services sector contributes 59.9%, agriculture 21%, and manufacturing 19.1% to the local economy. The city can be accessed by air through Kotoka International Airport, Accra, with a domestic scheduled flight to Takoradi due to the existence of an airport managed by the Ghana Air Force. The city also has a seaport and a very good road network, which links all parts of Ghana as well as the neighbouring countries of La Côte d’lvoire, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger. The metropolis is well developed, with the best of socioeconomic infrastructure and facilities in terms of electricity, water, telecommunication, education, and health with industrial set ups and other several economic activities .
2.2. Data Collection Methods
A mixed methodological approach and specific techniques were employed to address the objectives of the research since the reliance on any single approach to data gathering could lead to loss of valuable information .
Substantial relevant information on the sustainable solid waste management practices and other vital issues on the subject matter were gathered from newspapers, journals, published materials and unpublished reports, articles, and internet sources. Whilst the onsite waste handling and existing Residential Solid Waste Management (RSWM) practices of residents within the metropolis were obtained through preliminary field investigation, questionnaire survey, and face-to-face interviews. The preliminary field investigation involved scouting through the study area to assess solid waste dump sites, communal waste collection container, landfill site, and dustbins in selected areas of study.
During this process, pictures were taken of heaps of solid waste in dump sites, solid waste skips overflowing with solid waste, scattered solid waste in between houses, the number of days a skip takes to get full, and the frequency at which these skips were evacuated by the private sector solid waste collecting institutions within the metropolis. This process gave a general overview of the current waste management situation within the Sekondi-Takoradi Municipality and also aided in the formulation of questionnaire survey and interview schedule.
2.3. Sample Technique and Size Determination
The size of the sample taken was dependent on the number of households in the sampling area with due regard to the income levels. A sampling technique developed by Cochran  with which the desired degree of precision for the general population was employed according to the following equation: where n = sampling size of housing units, d = allowable error (0.05), P = housing unit variable, and Q = . Note: it is a constant indicating building facilities within the study area not used for residential purposes. N = Total number of housing units and Z = standardized normal variable and value that corresponds to 95% significance level equal to 1.96
According to the data obtained from the 2000 Population and Housing Census by the Ghana Statistical Service , the total housing stock within the metropolis is estimated at 36,079 (N) and out of it about 90% (P) according to the Metro Planning Unit of Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolitan Area (STMA) are residential with the remaining 10% (Q) being used for commercial activities, offices, and other activities other than for residential purposes.
Therefore, is the minimum sample size of housing units for reliable results.
2.4. Identification of Households
Based on their life standards, income levels, housing, and other facilities, communities within the area of study were categorized into low income groups (the poor group), middle, and high income groups  (Figure 2). Households which were categorized under low income (the poor) were those who are living in slum areas and congested living rooms. Simple random sampling technique was used to select two communities from each residential class grouping within the metropolis from which householders based on their willingness to take part in the research were selected for the questionnaire survey (Table 1).
After grouping (stratification) households, 21 households (representing 15.21%) from low income group, 71 households (representing 51.4%) from middle income, and 46 households (representing 33.3%) from high income groups were selected as depicted in Table 2. This percentage distribution was made possible by taking into account the housing units that exist in a participating community, dividing them by the total housing units of the six participating communities multiplied by 138. This was to ensure fair distribution of the questionnaire among the respondents in the various communities.
3. Results and Discussion
3.1. Existing Solid Waste Management Practices
3.1.1. Waste Generation and Storage
The per capita waste output in the city according to the Waste Department of Sekondi-Takoradi is estimated at 0.6 kg with the total daily waste generation output based on a current 2010 population census figure of 559,548 being 335,728.8 kg [17, 18].
Waste generated at source within the metropolis just like most communities in Ghana is stored in all manner of containers such as plastic bags, paper boxes, baskets, unused buckets, or any container considered appropriate for such purpose . However households in the high and some middle class income areas within the metropolis have been supplied with dustbins with proper covering at no cost by the private waste collection company operating within those areas. Separation at source is not practiced but whatever waste that is generated in the various households regardless of their nature is put together in the same container for disposal .
Figure 3 depicts how the various sampled households store their waste before disposal. Data gathered from the sampled households revealed that 48.6% store their waste in closed containers with majority of such respondents hailing from the high class zone and about 30.4% ascribed to the use of open containers for waste storage whilst 21% use polythene bags/sacks for storing waste. This method of waste storage was very common in the low class zone and adds to the waste management problems as wind and animals scatter the content, thereby making the area unsightly. However, there wasn’t any other form of waste storage apart from the three mentioned earlier.
3.1.2. Waste Collection and Transportation
Solid waste collection system employed within the metropolis is of two main types and is either on a franchise or contract basis. The major cities and towns within the municipality have been zoned into units with each private waste collection company assigned the responsibility of collecting and transporting solid waste from the various zones to the final disposal site. The two main methods of solid waste collection within the metropolis are the door to door collection and the communal waste container system. The door to door collection which is usually done on franchise basis is carried out by private waste collection firms in high and in some middle class income areas at a fixed cost. Those that do not enjoy this service and who are usually from the deprived or low class income areas deposit their waste in central containers placed at designated points to be emptied at specific intervals at a very small fee. According to the Waste Management Department of the assembly, the high income zone within the city pays a monthly levy of GH 5 (USD $ 1.46) with the middle class zone paying GH 4 (USD $ 1.17) for the waste collection service that they receive. However, the low class income areas pay a very small amount, GH 0.20 (USD $ 0.06), for using the skip.
Those that use the communal container system are in the majority representing 49.3% whilst those who enjoy the curbside system make up 32.6%. However, 18.1% of households without the benefit of having the curbside and communal container system and which are usually from the low class zone and newly developed areas resort to the use of waste dumps and other crude means of waste disposal.
Massive patronage of the communal container system by majority of the residents coupled with erratic schedules of waste collection by the waste collection companies has put pressure on the limited number of skips available for waste deposition, thereby resulting in a huge number of spillages and mushrooming of illegal dumpsites often seen at most middle and low class zones where central container system is employed at no cost. This has led to serious spillages as well as the mushrooming of illegal dumpsites (Figure 4). These spillages were very evident with the skip monitoring study conducted in the metropolis as shown in Table 3.
(a) Accumulation of illegal waste dump
(b) Skip overflowing with waste
All wastes collected within the metropolis are disposed of at a municipal dump site near the newly constructed landfill site yet to be operational at Sofokrom, a suburb of Essipon in the Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolis. The municipal dumpsite is a poorly managed area where authorities manning the area are engaged in open burning of waste at the site. This procedure is often adopted to reduce the volume of waste but it releases toxins and carcinogens especially from plastic materials. However, the best option to reduce waste volume and extend life of existing disposal site would be to improve waste recovery through recycling and composting programs . Even though there exist a municipal dumpsite for solid waste disposal, not all generated solid waste lands up at the dump site.
The accumulation of waste as a result of the erratic schedule of skip evacuation poses a potential adverse impact on public health and environmental quality due to its attraction of rodents and vector insects for which it provides food and shelter [22, 23].
Waste collection trucks that cart waste from the point of generation to the dumpsite are not covered and in some cases are covered with thin net that could barely keep it intact. As a result, the waste that was supposed to be conveyed to the municipal dump site gets littered all over the road. However, information gathered from Waste Management Department of the assembly indicates that operations of public and private waste management institutions cover 72% of the metropolis leaving 28% unattended to. The private waste collection firms take a greater chunk of percentage of waste collection within the metropolis whilst that of the assembly takes only 23% out of which most are evacuation activities. Within the coverage areas where solid waste collection is done, current statistics show that 69% of solid waste is collected and disposed of leaving 31% of the waste uncollected.
3.1.3. Waste Treatment and Recovery
In the city, there is no waste treatment or recovery facilities established by either the assembly or private companies. However, there exist some informal recycling facilities within the city that accept major recyclable items such as metals, glass, plastics, rubber, and papers.
Hence solid waste mostly disposed of in the metropolis does not go through processing or treatment. This is simply because wastes generated at the various households or points of generation are bundled together without undergoing any form of separation. This practice of handling waste at source without any form of waste separation has been a serious obstacle to any form of processing or treatment that relies on recycling or recovery programs. Due to nonavailability of any proper or formal legislation to ensure waste separation at source, potentially harmful or dangerous waste such as cadmium batteries, paint containers, pesticides containers, and other materials are found mostly in our household waste . In some cases medical and clinical waste are treated by incineration in open pits with no environmental control .
However, the only form of recovery and reuse activities is by scavengers who search through waste in temporary storage areas and at final disposal site for items considered to be of economic value. These scavengers mostly use their bare hands and at times stick for separation and picking of the items which are dictated mostly by type, market value, and demand. The operational activities of these scavengers tend to be very dangerous and unhealthy since most of them go about their scavenging activity without any protective equipment (Figure 5). In some cases, hazardous waste from the industrial setting is buried at designated portions of the dumpsite without any prior treatment.
3.2. Constraints to Effective Solid Waste Management Operations within Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolis
3.2.1. Lack of Finance
This study found that undue delays in payment of work done coupled with huge sums of money owed to these private waste collection institutions are one of the key challenges hampering effective waste management operations within the metropolis. It was also evident that even on franchise basis, the door to door waste collection service beneficiaries are in payment default summing to several thousands of Ghanaian cedis. The failure on the part of municipal authorities and the beneficiaries of the door to door waste collection service to make regular payments to the waste contractors makes it difficult and absolutely impossible for the latter to undertake adequate waste collection within the metropolis.
These problems are a result of poor revenue mobilization at the assembly as well as source reduction in monies the assembly owes to the central government for waste collection. Another cause of the financial predicament of municipal authorities in Ghana is the decision taken by the municipal authorities to charge communities regarded as “low income” very small amount of money as waste disposal levies. These low class zones and a section of the middle class zone that use the communal container system are the majority, thereby leaving a small proportion of the inhabitants to pay for waste service. Therefore the introduction of appropriate levies for the polluter pay system and pay-as-you-dump system coupled with strict monitoring schemes would enhance revenue mobilization from all waste disposal users in the metropolis.
However, the difficulty on the part of the municipal authorities and the waste collection companies in securing adequate funds in changing obsolete equipment for new modernized equipment and payment of salaries or wages to their staff as well as huge sums of money they owe to service beneficiaries and the authorities for work done impedes smooth operation and maintenance schedule within the metropolis (Figures 6 and 7).
3.2.2. Lack of Waste Management Personnel
The data gathered from the study show that apart from financial challenges, lack of human resource in the waste management business is militating against the effort to provide a better waste management service. All the private companies within the metropolis with the exception of Zoomlion indicated that they are understaffed and cannot attract workers to the company due to low remuneration, poor service conditions, and the stigma attached to being a waste collection worker.
Satisfactory waste management according to Armah  requires a wide range of qualified professionals including engineers, mechanics, administrators, sanitation officers, finance and accounting staff, and even researchers. This dearth of waste professionals in the waste business has really militated against the provision of better waste management service and thus results also in poor generation of data for planning waste management.
3.2.3. Lack of Appropriate Technologies
All the private waste management companies together with Waste Management Department of the assembly have poor equipment and inappropriate technologies to carry out waste collection activities. A visit to the facilities of these companies revealed a lot of broken down vehicles with the ones working also in a very deplorable state. The lack of adequate equipment of these companies as shown in Tables 4 and 5 confirmed that most of them lack the capacity to operate in their contract area. In some cases the contract area assigned to these companies is so large that the inadequacy of their equipment becomes a limiting factor to the provision of waste management services and, therefore, a major cause of the poor waste situation in the metropolis.
3.2.4. Lack of Law Enforcement
It emerged from the studies that nonenforcement of byelaws on waste disposal is a major contributing factor to the poor waste situation bedeviling the Sekondi-Takoradi metropolis. This has given room to what is now termed “throw-it-where-you-like” syndrome. This negative attitudinal response to solid waste management retards the progress of these institutions in their effort to rid the metropolis of solid waste. An informal discussion with some of the assembly men within the metropolis asserted to the fact that if these byelaws are strictly enforced a positive waste disposal culture among the population to keep the cities clean will be achieved. However, municipal authorities in the country seem unable to enforce the byelaws due to lack of political will. An official at the Health and Sanitation Department whose duty it is to ensure the compliance of these laws stated that their department is very much handicapped since the assembly itself is part of the problem. He further added that the assembly owes these waste companies and thus sanctions cannot be proffered to residents whose wastes are left in the various houses and central containers uncollected. The nonenforcement of these byelaws on waste disposal has created a lack of fear for the law and encouraged a “throw-it-where-you-like” culture among the population . It is therefore a common sight to see passengers in moving vehicles throwing litter such as food wrappers and plastic litter bags. Hence strict enforcement of already existing byelaws could help change the poor waste disposal culture within the metropolis and by extension Ghanaian cities.
The analysis has shown that waste generation in Sekondi-Takoradi far-outstrips the capacities of waste companies entrusted with the responsibility of collecting and disposing of solid waste. And as a result several challenges ranging from financial constraint, inappropriate technologies, inadequate personnel, and law enforcement have acted in concert to militate against the effective waste management practices within the metropolis.
The study also revealed that municipal authority and their waste collection contractors concentrate their waste collection operations in the wealthy residential areas whilst low income and commercial areas receive little or no service for waste collection.
To ensure effective waste management within the metropolis, it is recommended that clear contractual agreements for private sector participation in waste management within the metropolis with clear roles and responsibility should be outlined for their operation. It is also important that regulations on waste disposal and appropriate sanctions on littering and improper waste management behavior are strictly enforced by the Environmental Health and Sanitation Department. The adoption of an integrated waste management program is also strongly recommended for adoption by the municipal authorities.
Conflict of Interests
The authors declare that there is no conflict of interests regarding the publication of this paper.
Profound thanks go to the entire staff at Waste Management Department of Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolitan Assembly, Ghana Statistical Service, Environmental Health and Sanitation Department of Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolitan Assembly (STMA), and private waste collection companies as well as the various households whose cooperation and support made the fieldwork a success.
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