NIGERIA: Lagos Wecyclers transforms waste into credits for mobile phones

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NIGERIA: Lagos Wecyclers transforms waste into credits for mobile phones

Wecyclers, a young Nigerian company, collects recyclable waste in household garbage cans through an SMS system and with the help of paid residents, the collected material is sold to recyclers.

Waste management is a major concern in the city of Lagos State in Nigeria, which has between 17 and 22 million inhabitants (most populous in the federal republic). The city produces nearly 10,000 tons of waste every day and only 40% of household waste is collected and 20% recycled. It is an uncomfortable situation, because the streets have quickly turned into dumps.

The start-up Wecyclers presents itself as a superhero for waste collection. At the same time as it contributes to clean up the city, the dustbins are a source of wealth. With its 120 employees, it has already collected 3000 tons of waste. The young company encourages households to collect garbage, including bottles, plastic bags and aluminium cans.

For every kilogram of recycled material, each family receives wecycler points. They can then use these points to buy minutes of calls or consumer goods.” By rewarding households with credits, we hope to show that waste has value,” says Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola, the company’s manager. Nearly 15,000 Lagos residents have already agreed to collaborate with Wecyclers for the disposal of their waste. Wecyclers takes advantage of the permanent use of mobile phones in Africa to raise awareness of its actions, in particular by sending recommendations directly to residents by SMS.

Wecycler teams criss-cross Lagos to collect waste.

In addition, the employees of this start-up travel around the city to collect garbage. They track all kinds of waste: plastic bottles, paper, soda cans… Then, this waste is sorted, cleaned, decontaminated, dried and finally compacted. They are sold to local recycling companies, as the kilogram of cans for example is worth about 300 FCFA. An action which, beyond the simple gain it can bring, has a real impact on the protection of the environment. According to Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola: “People die in floods because sewer drains are blocked. Plastic chemicals infiltrate the soil because people dump waste without paying attention, which has an impact on their health, their livelihoods, and their productivity.’’

The Wecyclers team is supported by five local branches of major global companies, including DHL, Unilever, Coca-Cola… They finance machines, training and transport equipment.

Luchelle Feukeng

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