Nigeria generates over 42 million tonnes of solid waste such as scrap tyres, plastics, aluminum metals, used equipment and household waste. While there is a huge attention focused on recycling plastics, glass and paper, very few concern themselves with or even see financial opportunities in the vast improperly disposed tyres littering the country. Currently, over 10 million waste tyres, plastics and the likes are discarded annually in Nigeria.
These waste have huge negative impacts on health and environment as they serve as good breeding ground for cockroaches, housefly and also create stagnant water which serves as breeding ground for mosquitoes which spread various diseases like typhoid fever, malaria etc.
Hence, recycling these items can serve a good use to the economy while boosting growth and development and enhancing the country’s financial capacity. A former Project Manager in the Ministry of the Environment, Lagos State, Mr. Muibi Adedeji, bares his mind to Benedicta Charles on the development. He also discusses the opportunities that are yet to be tapped in the recycling industry and how youths can venture into the business and cash out big. Excerpts:
How long have you been in the recycling business and what is your evaluation of the industry so far?
I worked as a Project Manager with the Ministry of Environment from 2006 to 2015, when I ventured into waste collection with recycling companies. Recycling in Nigeria has come a long way. In the early ‘70s, we had the Ajaokuta Steel rolling mills, Toyo Glass Company at Agbara Industrial Estate, diverse paper rolling mills and others. Many of these industries went down the drain when Nigeria decided to be importing finished products. But for some years now, China came to our rescue and started recycling what Nigeria saw as a waste that could not be touched. I have been in the recycling business with the support of Lagos State government through the Ministry of Environment, when the ministry introduced a climate change programme, advocating waste to wealth in Lagos.
What are the untapped areas or opportunities in this venture, and how much is needed to do it?
There is much waste to be recycled that translate into wealth. Especially glass, plastics, paper, nylon, carton, tyres, aluminum, cans, iron and so on. There are opportunities in recycling apart from creating employment. It’s also an investment opportunity to many. However, our youths can start-up with a little capital. The Chinese have brought many machines to Nigeria to recycle the waste. Take for instance, plastics and cartons. These items are being sold today with much revenue generation. Previously, people threw away cartons and plastic. But today, it serves as a wealth booster for many, with many people keying into the opportunity therein.
Anyone can start up with the availability of the following: Space: The major problem in waste collection is space to store up all items. Capital: The business needs capital, starting with N150,000 or more, because the scavengers must be paid immediately on delivery. Transportation: Used van/truck must be available to transport the waste to be recycled to the recycling companies that will also pay to your bank account immediately they weigh the product. However, one can hire a truck/van as a start-up format for the business depending on when one can purchase a personal truck/ van.
What are the challenges in the business?
The only challenge in the business is that you have to give your time to it fully. Without that, your employees will be smiling to the bank at your expense.
What is the income value of the business and how can youths be attracted into it to curb unemployment?
Nigerian youths, no matter the level of their education, have amassed wealth of opportunities to be employers. All they need is capital to hire a warehouse or lease a landed property to accommodate the waste to be recycled. Meanwhile, expatiating on the income value, the more waste you supply, the more the financial gains. Therefore, your relationship with the scavengers and the rate you start with, will attract more to your place. If the company that you supply will pay like N100 per kilogram, you can be paying the scavengers N70 per kilogram. That is why I said the more the volume of the weight of the waste, the higher your income value or take home. Hence, there is need for the virtue of hard work in the business.
What is the future of waste and recycling business in Nigeria regarding financial and industry growth?
The future of waste management in Nigeria is very bright because the Chinese and the Indians are now investing heavily on the business. The waste-producing companies depend mainly on nylon / plastic bottles and the Indians are the major producers of nylon in Nigeria as at now. More investors are focusing on these because our leaders did not focus on the recycling business since the collapse of the early recyclers.
Why is the sector gaining huge focus right now?
Are there economic benefits? Formerly, one was looking at the business as meant for illiterates or school dropouts lacking in-depth knowledge. But today, people are seeing a new angle to the business that would enable one to create a financial waste profile. Presently, there is more to the business than what we see on the surface. All you need is to let your money work for you while gaining more money and amassing wealth. This is a good deed for the environment. It is worthy to note that the recycling industry is highly competitive. However, there exist such endless opportunities that are yet untapped. Also, the modern technological advancement has made it easy and possible to source for waste. You can Google the information about recyclers in Nigeria with the names and their locations without problem. The companies will expatiate more about their process and procedures, the volume or weight or kilogram of the product you must meet and it is usually on a negotiable ground.
What can the government do to support businesses like yours?
The Nigeria government should create avenue for the youths to start the business as collectors before they move to the next stage. It is not an illiterate business or a venture to be ashamed of. The local government has benefitted immensely with reduction of waste on our roads and highways. However, there is a need to invest in proper waste management processes and the technology that would ensure an effective management of waste, which will inevitably aid the recycling process.
What advice do you have for Nigerian youths?