Last update:

Waste pickers of Kpone landfill fight for recognition and formal inclusion, Accra, Ghana

Waste pickers of Kpone and Tema have organized and developed proposals to improve recycling and their conditions but continue to face precarity and exclusion from formal waste management. The imminent landfill closure threatens their source of livelihood.


Kpone landfill is one of the principal landfills in Accra, next to the ones in Nsumia, Nsawam, and various smaller dumpsites across the city. It was opened in 2013 in the municipality of Kpone-Katamanso, located in the Tema area of the Greater Accra Region, to receive a daily amount of 700 tons of waste. Waste collection in Accra is done by several private contractors and slowly improving, although there is still no full coverage due to different problems. Recycling is almost entirely done by the informal sector. [1][2]

See more
Basic Data
Name of conflict:Waste pickers of Kpone landfill fight for recognition and formal inclusion, Accra, Ghana
State or province:Greater Accra Region
Location of conflict:Kpone - Tema
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Urban development conflicts
Waste privatisation conflicts / waste-picker access to waste
E-waste and other waste import zones
Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Specific commodities:Land
Domestic municipal waste
Recycled Metals
Secondhand clothes
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Kpone landfill was opened as an engineered landfill in 2013 in the municipality of Kpone-Katamaso, located in the Tema area of the Greater Accra Region. It comprises an area of 18 hectares with 4 cells and is owned by the Tema Metropolitan Assembly. Its construction was funded by a program of the International Development Association, which belongs to the World Bank. [3] It is operated by the company Waste Landfills, which is linked to the same group as Accra’s largest waste collector ZoomLion. In addition, also other waste companies and informal waste collectors bring waste to Kpone. A planned extension with another 9 cells (across 20 hectares) was not completed as the proposed land was controversially taken by a real estate developer and, in the following, the city of Tema demarcated it as the industrial area that will be used for the construction of a factory. That implies that instead of a planned 25 years lifespan, the site already reached its capacities after six years. [3][13]

See more
Project area:18 ha
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:300 waste pickers at Kpone landfill, nearby residents
Start of the conflict:2014
Company names or state enterprises:Waste Landfills Limited from Ghana - Operator of Kpone landfill
Zoomlion Ghana Ltd. from Ghana
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources (MSWR)
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA)
Tema Metropolitan Assembly (TMA)
Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs)
International and Finance InstitutionsInternational Development Association (IDA)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Kpone Landfill Waste Pickers Association
Biakoye Waste Pickers Association
Women in Informal Employment - Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO)
Global Alliance of Waste Pickers (Globalrec)
Environment 360
Advocates for Community Alternatives (ACA)
OR Foundation
Kpone Organised Youth for Development (OYD)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Informal workers
International ejos
Local ejos
Wastepickers, recyclers
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Fires, Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases, Other environmental related diseases
Potential: Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Strengthening of participation
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Under negotiation
Application of existing regulations
Proposal and development of alternatives:Waste pickers of Kpone landfill demand an end of discrimination, better working conditions, and social rights, such as access to health services. Above all, they demand recognition for their work and contribution to recycling, and to become included in the formal waste management system, for example in door-to-door collection and the management and formalized recycling work at a new landfill. [6]

WIEGO demands the formal inclusion of waste pickers in the management of sanitary landfills and the recycling system, which has to be improved. The organization says that ‘zero waste’ approaches must also address the protection of livelihoods that depend on informal recycling, which is above all, to allow continued access to recyclable waste and improve the social protection of waste pickers. [30]

The Environmental Service Providers Association (ESPA) called for better waste segregation as an alternative to landfills, which would sooner or later just reached again their capacities – as almost no landfill in Accra has had a lifetime longer than five years and most of them were poorly managed. This had to start at the household level but would also come with better collection services and new treatment facilities. [2][4][9][25]
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:There have been substantial achievements at the grassroots level as waste picker groups of Kpone and Tema have started to organize and voice their demands. They were supported by WIEGO and a couple of pilot projects that aimed at strengthening their recognition and position as important recyclers. However, there have so far been few achievements at the institutional level: the struggle for recognition is still ongoing and informal waste pickers remain largely sidelined by municipal waste management policies, even though the waste overflow across Accra causes daily headaches.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

National Environmental Sanitation Policy (2010)

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[3] Salifu, L. (2019): Draft Final Report. Environmental and Social Audit of Kpone Landfill. Ghana Ministry of Works and Housing, February 2019.

[16] Rockson, G., Kemausuor, F., Seassey, R., Yanful, E. (2013): Activities of scavengers and itinerant buyers in Greater Accra, Ghana. In: Habitat International, 39, 148-155.

[17] Baah-Boateng, W., Vanek, J. (2020): Informal Workers in Ghana: A Statistical Snapshot. WIEGO Statistical Brief N° 21, January 2020.

[1] Personal communication with the local WIEGO team.

[5] Modern Ghana (2018): Waste Pickers Association Appeals For Health Post. 04.03.2018. (Online, last accessed: 01.05.2020)
[click to view]

[7] Waste Landfills (2016): Accra gets new landfill site. (Online, last accessed: 01.05.2020)
[click to view]

[8] (2018): No Cholera cases recorded in Accra since 2017 – AMA boss. 06.06.2018. (Online, last accessed: 01.05.2020)
[click to view]

[9] (2019): Gov’t urged to adopt IRECORP as Kpone landfill site poses danger to residents. 03.09.2019. (Online, last accessed: 01.05.2020)
[click to view]

[13] Darke, R. (2014): Estate developers enroach on Kpone Engineered Landfill site. Daily Graphic, 02.04.2014. (Online, last accessed: 01.05.2020)

[14] WIEGO (2020): Accra. (Online, last accessed: 01.05.2020)
[click to view]

[15] GBC Ghana Online (2019): Waste Pickers call for respect and recognition. 02.03.2019. (Online, last accessed: 01.05.2020)
[click to view]

[17] Doe, J. (2018): In Accra, Kpone landfill organization small steps, big horizon. Globalrec, 21.12.2018. (Online, last accessed: 01.05.2020)
[click to view]

[18] Lau, F. (2019): Co-designing with waste-pickers in Ghana. MIT D-Lab, 06.02.2019. (Online, last accessed: 01.05.2020)
[click to view]

[21] WIEGO (2019): WIEGO-ACA Dialogue with Informal Workers and Lawyers. (Online, last accessed: 01.05.2020)
[click to view]

[22] Yeboah, A. (2017): Plastic waste is destroying aquatic life - TMA. Ghana news Agency, 08.11.2017. (Online, last accessed: 01.05.2020)
[click to view]

[23] Globalrec (2020): Health walk through the principal streets of Kpone to make their work visible for #wastePickersDay2020 by the Kpone Landfill Organization in Ghana. (Online, last accessed: 01.05.2020)
[click to view]

[24] Class FM (2020): Shut Kpone landfill or we sue – Angry youth to gov't. (Online, last accessed: 01.05.2020)
[click to view]

[26] The Independent Ghana (2020): Kpone youth threatens massive demo against overage landfill site. 18.03.2020. (Online, last accessed: 01.05.2020)
[click to view]

[27] Dapaah, E. (2020): Government eager to pay debt owed landfill operators – AMA boss. Citinewsroom, 11.03.2020. (Online, last accessed: 01.05.2020)
[click to view]

[28] Adogla-Blessa, D. (2018): AMA contracts trucks to collect waste as Zoomlion drivers strike. Citi Newsroom, 17.09.2018. (Online, last accessed: 01.05.2020)
[click to view]

[29] Citi Newsroom (2019): Gov’t to construct US$43 million landfill facilities at Abokobi and Agbogbloshie. 05.12.2019. (Online, last accessed: 01.05.2020)
[click to view]

[25a] Public Agenda Ghana (2019): Close, relocate Kpone landfill site; it’s killing us – Residents. 24.04.2019. (Online, last accessed: 01.05.2020)
[click to view]

[25b] Modern Ghana (2019): Kpone Landfill Site Faces Closure Over Health Hazards. 04.12.2019. (Online, last accessed: 01.05.2020)
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[6] WIEGO (2019): Recognizing Waste Pickers. Youtube, 15.07.2019. (Online, last accessed: 01.05.2020)
[click to view]

[6]] WIEGO (2019): Recognizing Waste Pickers. Youtube, 15.07.2019. (Online, last accessed: 01.05.2020)
[click to view]

[10] Ricketts, L. (2020): Our Long Recovery - Land on Fire. Youtube, 16.03.2020. (Online, last accessed: 01.05.2020)
[click to view]

[19] Ricketts, L. (2020): We Are Human Beings - The Waste Pickers' Perspective. (Online, last accessed: 01.05.2020) Youtube, 16.03.2020.
[click to view]

[20] WIEGO (2019): Feeding Families: Meet Grace from Ghana. Youtube, 15.07.2019. (Online, last accessed: 01.05.2020)
[click to view]

Other comments:[1] Personal communication.

This case has been reported in collaboration with the local and regional WIEGO team.
Meta information
Contributor:Max Stoisser, in collaboration with WIEGO (Karim Saagbul, Dorcas Ansah & Vanessa Pillay)
Last update14/05/2020
Conflict ID:5013
Legal notice / Aviso legal
We use cookies for statistical purposes and to improve our services. By clicking "Accept cookies" you consent to place cookies when visiting the website. For more information, and to find out how to change the configuration of cookies, please read our cookie policy. Utilizamos cookies para realizar el análisis de la navegación de los usuarios y mejorar nuestros servicios. Al pulsar "Accept cookies" consiente dichas cookies. Puede obtener más información, o bien conocer cómo cambiar la configuración, pulsando en más información.