The use of bicycle-powered collection vehicles called Wecycles to offer recycling services to households in densely-populated neighborhoods
Wecyclers was created as a solution to the challenge of urban waste. The UN estimates only 10% of the trash in Africa is collected, with the remainder left to rot in communities or burned in unpleasant open fires.
In Nigeria, it is estimated that the average individual generates 0.5kg of waste daily which results in about 80,000 metric tons of waste requiring 2,000 waste disposal trucks daily. Poorly disposed waste accumulates in trash heaps and refuse dumps that lead to increased flooding, encourage the spread of diseases, and create psychological stress on communities.
Wecyclers provides a solution this problem by offering convenient household recycling services in densely populated, low-income neighbourhoods using a fleet of low-cost cargo bicycles and an SMS-based incentives platform. Our target customers are encouraged to provide recyclable waste and get redeemable points for household items.
We are solving the problem of improper waste management, disposal and overgrowing landfills. Improper waste disposal is a major factor affecting the living conditions of people in slum conditions without formal waste collection in the state and country as a whole.
Is this proposal for a practice or a project?
What actions do you propose?
Awareness and Advocacy on the current environmental issues, sustainable practices such as source separation and the importance of proper waste disposal. This would be done using several mediums such as Campaigns, TV shows, Radio and even in Educational Institutions as part of the curriculum.
Strict environmental laws that outline waste disposal practices will be adhered to. Policies mandating manufacturers to be responsible for the waste produced by recycling and supporting businesses in the environmental sector should be implemented.
Support in terms of funding is key to setting up this project. The work space, tools and machinery needed to collect and process the waste is the next big investment. Grants and loans would be a good source of the initial capital needed.
Once the idea of recycling is introduced to individuals, collection of recyclable waste can begin after the necessary licences and permits are gotten. Upon collection, subscribers are awarded points commensurate to the weight of recyclables collected and are also rewarded cash and household items based on same quantity.
After collection, waste is processed- Sorted, Baled and Crushed and then sold to local recyclers to be recycled into new products such as napkins, tissues, shopping bags and plastic furniture
Who will take these actions?
Entrepreneur: Project lead- Wecyclers: Collection of recyclable waste for processing, sale and incentivising subscribers.
Government: Advocacy and law enforcement
Media: Sensitizing the general public, promoting sustainable waste management practices
Individuals/General public: Implementing sustainable waste management practices by recycling
Government/Organizations/Businesses: Participants, Technical and Financial Support
Where will these actions be taken?
These actions are best suited for communities within Africa. According to Muzenda and Ntoli, Africa is known to be the least developed region in the world with 38% urbanization. Although, this is low compared to many other countries in the world, African countries are experiencing rapid development with growth rate of four percent per annum. African countries are now faced with huge amount MSW which has direct effect on the human health, safety and environment.
These actions will occur densely populated regions of Nigeria. In Nigeria, Lagos, Port Harcourt and Ibadan would be the main focus.
In addition, specify the country or countries where these actions will be taken.
No country selected
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What impact will these actions have on greenhouse gas emissions and/or adapting to climate change?
Recycling, and producer responsibility are very important in reducing waste and therefore, our greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that the greenhouse gas emissions emitted directly from waste being burned in an incinerator or buried in a landfill account for about 3% of the total greenhouse gas emitted in the U.S. each year.
An inventory of GHG emissions in Nigeria based on a gross population of 96.7 million carried out in 1994 estimated the total methane emissions as 5.9 Tg CH4. The MSW sector accounted for approximately 4% of the total amount. According to the International Energy Agency, the emissions from the waste sector contributes about one-fifth of global anthropogenic methane emissions, which is a key contributor to global warming.
Every product we use has embedded energy, which is the energy it took to extract, transport, and transform the materials needed to produce the product. Every single item we recycle results in significant energy savings because recycling takes advantage of this embedded energy. For some items, like an aluminium can, recycling results in 90-97% energy savings compared to making a new can from bauxite and other raw materials, according to (Choate, 2005). Every recycled material uses less energy than its virgin component.
Assuming Wecyclers collects 500kg of plastics daily, this would mean we would have prevented about 3tons of co2 emissions daily and at the same time, diverting 500kg of plastics from the landfills or drainages and into productive reuse.
What are other key benefits?
Other desirable outcomes of this project comprises of a cleaner, safer and healthier environment for all. This project is in line with Lagos State 'Cleaner Lagos Initiative' CLI, which is geared towards addressing, enforcing and regulating the challenges in the solid waste management systems within Lagos State, while also aiming to protect the environment, human health and social living standards of Lagos State residents.
Wecyclers has the capacity to fulfil the CLI goals which include
- Reducing the accumulation of solid waste
- Promoting best practices, including reducing, reusing, and recycling
- Reducing greenhouse emissions and air pollutants
- Preventing public littering and improper disposal of waste
- Lower Lagos’ crime rate with a job creation scheme
- Reversing and reducing the impact of climate change
- Working towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals especially goals 1,4,6,8,12 and 17
What are the proposal’s projected costs?
Two main challenges I have faced are funding and the wrong perception of people towards waste management. Organizations, both local and international have been of immense help through grants and sponsorship to help augment the financial needs of the company. In terms of trying to change the perception of the people, we have been able to educate people about recycling. We have had outreaches, educational lectures etc about proper waste management, disposal and the benefits of recycling both financially and environmentally.
The proposal would start having impact within the first five years of its implementation. The short term impact is an improved standard of living, job creation and a cleaner environment
In the next 15 years, as more people experience the effects of client change in the form of rising sea levels, droughts, and extreme weather, they see the value in caring for the environment and embrace recycling as a way of life. There will be a complete turnaround in our attitude towards waste and the potentials of waste entrepreneurship.
In the long term, the plan is to continue expanding our operations/reach encourage more communities to get involved in recycling. I would like for Wecyclers to operate all across Nigeria and be the largest recycling company in Africa.
About the author(s)
- CEO and Co-founder of Wecyclers Nigeria Limited.
- Social entrepreneur, passionate about building sustainable models for waste collection and reuse in the developing world.
- Graduate of Fisk University, Vanderbilt University and MIT’s Sloan School of Management.
- Legatum Fellow at MIT’s Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship, Carroll Wilson Fellow, an Echoing Green Fellow and a 2013 recipient of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards.
- Uses innovative low-cost bicycle-powered collection vehicles called “wecycles” to provide convenient household recycling service in densely populated neighborhoods, where service subscribers accumulate rewards points that they can exchange for household goods, food items, or cash.
- Registered over 15,000 households for waste collection service across Lagos and diverted over 3,000 metric tons of recyclable materials from landfills into productive reuse.
- Created over 100 jobs and rewarded subscribers with over €70,000 worth of gifts and cash prizes.
Muzenda E, Belaid M, Mollagee M, Motampane N, Ntuli F (2011)
Reflecting on Waste Management Strategies for South Africa. World
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Kofoworola, Int J Waste Resour 2016, 7:1
Platt, Brenda, and Neil Seldman. Wasting and Recycling in the United States 2000 Athens, GA: GrassRoots Recycling Network (GRRN), 2000.Solid Waste Management