What’s Next for the Ghana Recycling Initiative by Private Enterprise (GRIPE)?

Founded in November of 2017, the Ghana Recycling Initiative by Private Enterprise (GRIPE), is often hailed as a bright light in the development of extended producer responsibility (EPR) systems Africa. However, a recent investigative piece done by Bloomberg, found that many of GRIPE’s collection schemes t seem to be non-functioning and limited in impact.  Although GRIPE has maintained a general silence since the release of the article, the recent criticism creates space for the organization to reflect, learn and restructure.

GRIPE has great potential, but in order to harness the full impact of the organization, three key changes are recommended:

  1. GRIPE can benefit from participation of senior level management. One of the major challenges of GRIPE is that it lacks oversight of high-level managers of member companies. Employees appointed to support GRIPE’s activities often come from the communications and regulatory department of their companies. Meaning, the skills necessary for program development, monitoring and evaluation and business modelling are lacking. Additionally, the power to make decisions is often outside of their control. For GRIPE to be effective, member companies should consider moving the conversations to the Executive Management level to support effective decision making and action on collection priorities that fit into companies’ objectives. If GRIPE continues to be employee led, companies should invest in creating new positions for individuals that have the technical knowledge to support the organization.
  2. GRIPE members combine their resources and efforts When GRIPE members accepted the invitation to join forces to support greater coordination among plastic projects, the vison was to together and create a coordinated strategy. However, after 5 years, member organizations continue to conduct independent collection projects and often brand them with the GRIPE logo. The lack of coordinated efforts often leads to projects stagnating once the funding from one brand runs out. It also leads to the development of similar projects by different brands. Working together, undoubtedly allows for a greater mobilization and more efficient use of resources, which is the key objective of any extended producer responsibility scheme.
  3. GRIPE must develop a business model for their collection schemes. Over the years, GRIPE and has focused on doing “pop-up” collection schemes in communities throughout Accra and Kumasi. Although these collections are great for publicity, it is not a sustainable business model. To promote development of stronger plastic collection programs, GRIPE may want to consider providing a subsidy to collectors for each ton of plastic they collect. This method not only helps entrepreneurs cover the high cost of recycling and processing, but also can lead to greater transparency and traceability of plastic collection value chains. This formula has also been used in other successful EPR schemes.

In Ghana there is a saying, that the “Young Shall Grow.” It is my hope that GRIPE can continue to grow in the right direction, with the right partners and set the right pace to change the plastic collection eco-system in Ghana.

This article is written by Cordie Aziz, the Founder and Executive Director of Environment360. Environment360 is a Ghana based NGO that leverages partnerships, technology and finance to support development of inclusive circular economies in West Africa.

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