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Recycling: Unearthing Wealth From Waste In Nigeria

Recycling: Unearthing Wealth From Waste In Nigeria

By Kenneth Jukpor

Over 100 young Nigerians are engaged in the business of selling dirt, mostly used plastic bottles, metals and ceramics to recycling companies; from just this dirt hub at Alakija, Lagos/Badagry expressway.

A lot of people in Nigeria, especially young ones say there are no employment opportunities in the country. Although that seems to be true, there are numerous opportunities and even dirt can be gathered and sold to recycling companies.

Scholars have identified the following as the major causes of unemployment in Nigeria; neglect of agricultural sector, rural-urban migration, wrong impression about technical or vocational education or training, corruption with its attendant grave embezzlement, rapid population.

Despite these factors being germane, the reality is that poverty starts from the mind. In fact, some analysts posit that poverty isn’t the lack of resources but the absence of resourcefulness.

Amazed by the consistent activity at this spot in Lagos, our correspondent stopped by to investigate this ‘dirt’ business that has seen several young Nigerians gainfully engaged as the rookies earn between N2,000 to N5,000 daily while major dealers earn N5,000 to N8,000 daily.

Our findings showed that the major dealers found at this spot have been in the business for more than a decade while most of the low level workers have spent an average of three years in the venture.

While the source of the waste gathered for recycling by these operators are Lagos streets, waste hubs and hotels, marine life and bio-diversity have also come under serious threat in Nigeria with an alarming level of plastic pollution and marine litters as the country rated second in Africa on marine pollution chart, according to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

Speaking with MMS Plus newspaper, the owner of the truck in the photograph above, Mr. Akin Adetunbo said, “I have been in this business for over seventeen years. From the proceeds of this business I take care of myself and my family of four.  We recycle PVC, cans of soft drinks, bottles, plastics, paper and metal. There are several products that the recycled materials can produce. The end products include; clothes, rubber sandals, flip-flops, rubber shoes, and other plastics.”

Akin who was a senior staff at Alchem Recycling Company located at Mile 2 in Lagos, resigned and moved into the logistics aspect of the business.

According to him, when you venture into the business you would know that truly, “money dey there.”

Meanwhile, another casual worker at the premises, Mr. Ibrahim Swaga, noted that he had spent six years in the business of gathering plastic, ceramic and metal waste to be sold to recycling companies.

His words: “I have been doing this business for over six years. I like the job because it gives me money. I buy the plastics at N20 per kilo and sell it between N60 to N80 to the recycling company. We buy plastics, metal, ceramic and separate them before selling. I buy metal at N100 per kilo and sell at N150. The business is viable and the recycling companies come here with their trucks every day. The young boys that work here are more than 100. I make between N3,000 to N6,000 every day.”

Another leader of the waste recycling business at Alakija, Mr. Yusuf Isa told our correspondent that he has been in the recycling business for over twenty years.

“Over eight boys work here every day and we don’t fight over money. Everybody gets his proper share and I’m happy that these boys decide to work here instead of becoming thieves as a result of unemployment. Our buyers come here with their trucks to buy from us. We just separate and waste some of the dirty waste and they buy after weighing them,” Isa said.

Meanwhile, the Federal Ministry of Environment called for inter-agency collaboration among all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) at Federal and State government levels, and encouraged private companies to deepen their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to tackle the menace.

The Minister of State for Environment, Barr. (Mrs.) Sharon Ikeazor made this plea, even as she noted that the plastic waste could be channeled into wealth creation and employment for the teeming Nigerian youth via recycling.

According to her, Nigeria doesn’t lack laws, policies or regulations to address the proliferation of plastics and other items that become marine litters.

“What we lack is the will to do the implementation. We have policies but these are just intentions until we legislate. The Ministry of Environment already has a policy on waste management and the issue of plastics is something that has come and we are working with stakeholders to address this.”

“There is a group known as Food and Beverage Recycling Alliance (FBRA). It is a team of responsible companies united by a shared concern for the environment, driving a self-regulatory post-consumer packaging waste recovery within the food and beverage sector. When I came into the Ministry, they were one of the first set of people I met. This shows a high sense of CSR,” she said.

The University of Lagos (UNILAG) through its recycling initiative realized about N5million from waste generated by the university community. The university generates about 32.2 tons of waste monthly from its 97,000 population including visitors.

Also, Senior Environmental Engineer, UNILAG, Mrs. Sade Nubi, urged higher institutions in the country to key into recycling projects and add value to their community.

According to Nubi, “We have been able to recycle as much as 23 tons of waste every month. We have recycling companies as partners who come to buy our waste. We have been able to create income for the institution as well as employment,”

“We have been able to raise between N4million and N5million for the institution since the inception of the initiative and employ over 50 workers at the sorting centre in the institution.” she noted.

Recycling is not just a matter of recovering recyclable material; it’s a total economic system. Only few people realize that the cost of collecting and processing recyclable materials far outweighs their value as a commodity that can be sold again.

According to a report on Business Day, about 90 percent of ocean plastic waste originates from Asia and Africa can be traced to just 10 rivers, including River Niger, largely due to poor management of waste.

As part of efforts to tackle pollution at sea and preserve marine resources, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), an organ of the United Nations, saddled with the responsibility of regulating shipping activities globally, developed series of conventions that must be followed by maritime nations in order to ensure safe navigation of vessels and security of cargoes on international and local waters.

These include the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL); the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and other Matter (London Convention), 1972, among others.

Beyond domesticating the relevant conventions of the MARPOL Convention to enable it to manage and control pollution at sea, NIMASA took a massive step with the launch of a Maritime Action Plan on Marine Litter and Plastic (MAP-ML+P) Management in Nigeria, earlier this year.

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