Some Countries are Trying

Ghana leaves secondhand fridges out in the cold in bid to save energy

Despite a government incentive scheme, many Ghanaians are unhappy about the introduction of a ban on used fridges

A secondhand fridges shop at City Waste in a suburb of Ghana’s capital Accra. Photograph: Afua Hirsch

Behind a once mint-coloured concrete wall – now stained by red dust – in a hilly suburb of Ghana’s capital, Accra, a large machine is making history as it chugs and whirrs away.

It is a mobile fridge degassing unit – the first of its kind on the entire African continent, its owners say – and it is sucking poisonous gases out of hundreds of Ghana’s discarded secondhand fridges. The machine was imported from Germany by City Waste Management, a company specialising in the safe disposal of electronic waste.

“We take out the poisonous gases and we separate the oils,” says Vivian Atiaybor, 41, the field co-ordinator and public relations manager for City Waste. “Since October, we have processed 450 fridges here, and there are another 600 already waiting for us to collect. Many of these fridges are so old that even within our households they are already letting off poisonous gases.”

City Waste is separating and scrapping old fridges under a rebate scheme that incentivises Ghanaians to replace them with new ones in exchange for a subsidy of 200 cedis (about £70). Others have been confiscated from the port. Secondhand fridges have been banned in Ghana since 1 January, when a new law – passed in 2008 but delayed so that importers and dealers could adjust – came into force.

Officials say there are a number of reasons for banning the devices, including the use of toxic and ozone-unfriendly chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) – banned under the Montreal protocol – in fridges more than 10 years old. But the main reason was to reduce the energy burden on Ghana’s already overstretched national grid, says deputy director of the Energy Commission, Kofi Agyarko.

“Ghana has a lot of used refrigerators – we conducted a study which revealed that we had in excess of 2m, and that on average they were consuming 1,200kW hours of energy in a year,” Agyarko says. “That compares with energy-efficient refrigerators in Europe and America which consume 250kW hours in the whole year. That tells you the way we were wantonly dissipating our energy resources.”

Ghana is not the first African country to ban secondhand fridges; neighbouring Ivory Coast and nearby Nigeria have both introduced legal prohibitions on the devices in recent years. But Ghana is the first African country to use public funds to subsidise the process of replacing old fridges with new ones, having allocated 3m cedis for the scheme.

“We are leading the way on the African continent because we are not just banning the importation of used refrigerators. We have also put in place an arrangement to ensure that people who cannot afford to buy new refrigerators are cushioned,” Agyarko says.

City Waste – the sole scrapyard manager for the government rebate scheme to dispose of old fridges – earns its income by selling plastics to Ghanaian companies, which recycle them to make flip-flops and plastic containers. The company also sells metals, foam and other, more hazardous, materials extracted from the fridges to recycling plants in Europe.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. every little bit….

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  2. […] in the US we are told to stick it in the trash some countries are doing much better.  See how a German invention is saving the environment from these old […]

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