Global Shapers are young leaders who want to develop their leadership potential towards serving society. They work together in teams to improve their communities. This special series highlights the winners of Coca-Cola’s Shaping a Better Future Grant Challenge for the Global Shapers Community. This challenge rewards taking action, leading positive change and using innovative approaches to tackle serious social issues.

The Coca-Cola Company is a founding partner of this World Economic Forum Community. We think the Shapers are pretty awesome and hope you enjoy seeing the change they are starting in their own backyards.

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Walk along any street in Ghana and you will easily find littered waste. The city of Kumasi, Ghana’s second largest city, is not an exception. An estimated 40 tons of plastic waste are produced every day, less than 3% of which is recycled. The 3R’s campaign (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) championed by environmentalists in most developed countries have not yet caught on in our part of the world. The over 16,000 estimated tons of plastic waste generated each year in Kumasi is seriously endangering the environment.

The problem has several roots. First, it is an attitudinal problem of the city’s inhabitants, who litter indiscriminately on the streets. Second, there is insufficient funding for the city’s waste management, which is responsible for waste collection and street sweeping services. Finally, there is a regular practice of indiscriminate dumping of refuse into drains and open spaces.

In an attempt to tackle the plastic waste menace in Kumasi, the Kumasi Hub of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers is spearheading an initiative that upcycles plastic waste. Born of a desire to reduce the city’s mountain of waste and help create employment opportunities for street youth and the physically challenged, the “Trash to Treasures” project rescues some of this plastic waste, which is wreaking environmental havoc, and converting this unwanted waster into beautiful, durable, affordable, cost- effective and environmentally-friendly products through upcycling.   

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With the support of the Recnowa Initiative that offers the technology transfer, the project has launched a line of products handcrafted by street youth from colorful plastic waste that would otherwise clutter landfills, fields and streets in the city.  While the project has a compelling environmental and social story behind their products, the products were carefully designed to be high-quality, durable and stylishly colorful.

The Trash to Treasures has developed an impressive system of production for their products. Street youth and the physically challenged gather plastic waste from the streets of Kumasi and bring them back to the shop where the plastic is thoroughly cleaned, dried, and then fused together to come out with decorative products. Since its inception, the Trash to Treasures has impacted the lives of thousands of people in the city where we help manage its plastic waste. The support from Coca-Cola will go a long way to help us scale up our project and hand it over to the community.

The social story of how these upcycled products support the livelihood of street youth is equally compelling. “We hope our upcycled products will inspire others to recycle post-consumer products into beautiful utilitarian items,” says Rosalin Abigail Kyere-Nartey the Curator of the Kumasi Hub. "Our innovation is developing an alternative use to an otherwise unwanted waste products, which is making positive economic and environmental impact Kumasi.’’ 

To see more of the impact of the “Turning Trash to Treasures” project, please check out this video.

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Blog Author Roaslin has over five years of experience in the hospitality and the tourism sector. She is a graduate of the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration, and holds directorship positions with two organizations: Rosak Consult Limited and Afrocentric Bamboo Limited. Rosalin also hold the position Senior Disaster Control Officer (SDCO) at the National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO) in Ghana.

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