This Nigerian Company Makes a Fortune Turning Trash into Treasure
Waste management is one of today’s largest environmental problems, especially in poverty-stricken areas. Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola, a Nigerian social entrepreneur, found a favorable solution and launched WeCyclers which offers waste collection and recycling services. What’s more, it has proven to be a productive social enterprise!
As the most populous city in Africa, Lagos City is most likely to be prone to urban challenges including waste management. In fact, over 66% of Lagosians live in informal settlements where pollution and waste is a problem.
Having lived in the United States for her education, Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola, a born-and-raised Lagosian, still regularly visited Nigeria and saw the stark difference in the quality of life. That’s when she realized she wanted to make an impact and solve the waste problem.
On a one-page assignment for her MBA study at MIT, she submitted the framework of her ideas. What started as a student project instantly became WeCyclers, a social enterprise that aims to solve the city’s waste problems using an incentive-based model.
As a part of the process, households sign up for the service and their recyclable items were picked up for free by “wecyclers” using specially-designed cargo bicycles. Incentives were given to them for every kilogram recycled through SMS and can be redeemed in the form of items, electronics, or even cash. The waste is then sold to plants who use recyclable materials for products using polyester fiber such as mattress and pillow stuffing.
“It’s literally money just lying in the streets,” Bilikiss told The Guardian. She says the metal and plastic waste in Lagos is actually worth about $700mn.
Since its launching 5 years ago, thousands of households have already signed up for WeCyclers and tons of waste have been recycled. They have also employed hundreds of Lagosians but Bilikiss thinks the recycling sector could make up to 500,000 direct and indirect jobs once it has been fully developed.
“We’ve come a very long way and I’m proud and grateful for the people who have helped shape the project,” Bilikiss said.