In the crowded city of Kumasi, Ghana, garbage is a major problem. The government sanitation systems do not
reach the slums. But the young people of the Recycle Not a Waste Initiative
(Recnowa) are turning the waste into a low-carbon business opportunity. The social enterprise employs
local artisans and street youth in poor urban communities to take recyclable waste out of landfills and off
the streets, reducing emissions at the same time.
- 80–100 tonnes of plastic are processed each month;
- 5 million kg of CO2 emissions reduced;
- 30 direct jobs and 100 indirect jobs created.
Urban poverty is a significant problem in Ghana. Another problem is the thousands of plastic bags and
bottles that litter the streets and clog the sewers.
The Recnowa Initiative believes that the most important step to ending poverty is to create employment and
income opportunities. The initiative does that by engaging and providing opportunities for street youth and
other urban poor artisans from slum communities to take recyclable waste out of landfills and off the
By up‐cycling waste materials, the initiative reduce the quantities of waste reaching the landfills
and dump yards in the city of Kumasi. Dumping waste in dump yards poisons the land, the water bodies
connected to it, and the environment around it.
The Recnowa activity uses plastics and other material waste to produce high quality fashion-driven goods for both the
local and international fair trade markets while improving the quality of life of the urban poor in Ghana.
Ten plastic waste mobilization centers, which process between 80 to 100 tonnes of plastic each month, are managed by
groups of trained street youth. The plastic collectors earn money for every 50 kg of plastic they remove from the
streets, markets and plastic waste bins. By converting waste materials into eco-friendly goods, the initiative has
already cut carbon emissions by more than five million kilograms – proving that no effort is too small when it
comes to addressing climate change. The Recnowa Initiative has also created 30 direct jobs and 100 indirect jobs
(plastic waste collectors, sorters and transporters), with workers earning a higher wage than most other Ghanaians in
This initiative has not only helped to improve the living environment but has also contributed to the welfare of the
residents through income raised from the trash as well as the reduction of the incidences of waterborne disease such
as typhoid, cholera malaria and dysentery. Waste upcycling had a positive impact on environmental conservation
efforts by involving the community in the disposal and the management of the municipal waste, income
‐generation and plastic waste recycling as micro‐enterprise.
The Recnowa activity is highly replicable as it requires limited investment, low-cost technologies and easily
transferable skills. It follows a franchise model and there are plans to expand across communities in Ghana
and Africa with similar conditions.
The project can be easily replicated in communities with challenges in managing their plastic waste. This is
because the raw materials (plastic waste) used for the production of low-carbon goods can be found with
little or no cost.
The technology for making the products can be acquired through demonstration training by people with little
or no education. Small communities taking action on climate change around the world can make a big
Images owned by the activity partners, all rights reserved.