THE Minister of Environment, Science and Technology, Ms Sherry Ayittey, has stressed the need for the expansion of the polymer industry in Ghana to take advantage of the downstream processes of the oil industry.
In a speech read on her behalf at the opening of a stakeholders workshop on a Masters programme in polymer science, which is due to begin at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) next academic year, the minister said the polymer industry, which is currently based on the processing of primary polymeric products, should be expanded to include "the synthesis of polymers”.
Polymers are among the major downstream products of the oil industry and with the country due to begin commercial production of oil in the last quarter of the year, the minister was optimistic that the expansion of the polymer industry would have a significant role to play in expanding the benefits of the oil industry.
Many oil producing countries have developed large polymer industries, which formed part of their huge chemical industries.
Saudi Arabia, for example, has one of the leading chemical companies in the world today- Saudi Arabian Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) – which deals a lot in polymers.
The KNUST had developed the MSc Programme in collaboration with the School of Chemistry of the University of Manchester, the Development Partnership for Higher Education (DELPHE) and the UK’s Department of International Development (DFID).
The aim of the programme is to provide graduate students of different specialities the opportunity to gain multifaceted education and training in polymer science and technology, leading to professional careers in academia, industry, public institutions and self-employment.
Apart from the advantages of polymers, it also come along with negative environmental consequences since the high volume of polymers such as plastics and rubbers are bio non-degradable.
In Ghana, this is a major problem as gutters have been choked with plastic materials.
Ms Ayittey said the government’s “Better Ghana” agenda took great interest in environmental sanity and pledged the government’s support to the KNUST to continue to train the needed manpower for national development.
She also called on the university authorities to work with companies that littered the environment with their by-products to ensure that the nation remained on course to achieving a clean environment by 2015.
The minister further called for a comprehensive programme that would ensure that companies that recycled plastic materials could collect and recycle the materials with efficiency.
“I also challenge the metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies to improve their approach to waste collection,” she added.
The Pro Vice Chancellor of KNUST, Prof. E.O. Ellis, stressed the tremendous impact chemistry had had on mankind but said the negative consequences could not be downplayed.
The Provost of the College of Science of KNUST, Prof. Aboagye Menyeh, said the university needed to invite stakeholders in shaping the syllabus for the programme because eventually, it was the society that would benefit from the products of the new programme.