Photograph — Wecyclers

It is typical to discard unwanted objects, but often, these objects are discarded indiscriminately. In Nigeria, it is common for people to randomly toss sachets, nylon bags, biscuit wrappers, and plastic bottles on streets, roads, and out of moving vehicles. Good riddance to bad rubbish right? Well, not really. Indiscriminate waste disposal and poor waste management pose serious risks to the environment and human health.

With an estimated population of about 211 million, Nigeria is one of the largest producers of solid waste in Africa. Of more than 32 million tons of solid waste generated in the country annually, only 20 to 30 percent is collected. Hence, solid waste management is one of the most pressing environmental challenges in Nigeria. 

However, the issue of waste management is not peculiar to Nigeria. It is a global challenge, one that directly contributes to climate change. The value of global GDP dependent on the natural ecosystem is $43 trillion and the decline in ecosystem functionality costs the global economy more than $5 trillion a year. And according to the book Waste to Wealth by Accenture, $4.5 trillion is at stake by 2030 through a conscious and radical deviation from the traditional ‘take, make, waste’ production and consumption systems.

Some Nigerians are investing in noteworthy waste management initiatives with a financial advantage. These green entrepreneurs generate revenue by ensuring environmental sustainability – win-win. Their businesses involve recycling tyres, sachets, PET bottles, metal scraps, and other forms of waste materials. Here are five entrepreneurs in the making the most of waste in Nigeria:


Adejoke Lasisi

Planet3r, a social enterprise founded by Adejoke Lasisi in Oyo state, converts textiles and plastic wastes into eco-friendly products using the 3R – reduce, reuse, recycle – by weaving them into different fashion accessories and home decor.

To make these products, Lasisi sorts, shreds, and weaves nylon wastes. Threads form the warp of her products and nylon wastes serve as the weft. Every bag made is 90 percent nylon, 10 percent thread; a total of about 250 water sachets used in the process. Bags by Planet3r sell for about 10,000 to 15,000.

The social enterprise also empowers youths by training them in the business of recycling. 

Ifrique Eco Solutions

Intissar Bashir Kurfi

Ifrique Eco Solutions was founded by green architect, Intissar Bashir Kurfi. The company produces interlocking tiles using discarded plastic bottles and pure water sachets. Kurfi established her company to rid Nigeria of plastic wastes and promote environmental sustainability. 

The tiles and pavers produced by Ifrique are used for road and building constructions. And since the raw material (plastic waste) used in the production of these tiles can last hundreds of years without degrading, they are a better alternative to conventional tiles.

For its pilot project, the company installed 25 square meters of Ifrique Eco Pavers (IEP) on Nishea Livestock Farm in Abuja. The project consists of 1,250 pieces of eco-friendly interlocking tiles made from about 625,000 up-cycled water sachets.

Ernest Nkwocha

Ernest Nkwocha

Ernest Nkwocha is a tyre sculptor who sees a connection between art and waste. Fueled by the desire to create art and a cleaner city (Lagos), Nkwocha transforms discarded tyres into giant animal sculptures. 

He sources discarded tyres on the streets of Lagos, cuts them into shapes and screws them onto metal frameworks (armatures) that he made himself. “The tyre is like the flesh and this (the armature) is the skeleton,” he told the BBC

Some of his creations have taken the form of a crocodile, gorilla, rabbit, bull, lion, and several other animals. His sculptures are displayed in art galleries across Nigeria and sold beyond Nigeria and Africa.


Bilikiss Adebiyi

Founded by Bilikiss Adebiyi, Wecyclers is a social enterprise building a low-cost waste management infrastructure using mobile tech and cargo bikes, and providing incentives for people to embrace the environmentally friendly habit of recycling their waste. 

Wecyclers operates by collecting recyclable waste from households using its cargo bikes called “wecycles”, and with the aid of a software platform, reward people with points for every kilogram of waste delivered to them. The accrued points are then exchanged for cash, food, or household items every three months. 

Since its establishment in 2012, the enterprise has grown to incorporate motorized tricycles, vans, and trucks to expand its reach across the Lagos metropolis. This enables the enterprise to provide materials to manufacturers who upcycle these wastes into new products like tissue paper, stuffing for bedding materials, sturdy plastic furniture, and aluminium sheets.

Adeola Balogun

Adeola Balogun

Adeola Balogun is a visual artist and sculptor who uses discarded tyres, wood, metal, plastic, and old car parts to create statues. The 54-year-old sculptor has been experimenting with tyres since 2008. As a music lover, he often creates statues of instrumentalists. 

He also creates animal statues that are symbolic of strength and defence. Depending on the size and complexity, each sculpture takes several weeks to be completed. The non-biodegradable nature of tyres makes them a veritable material to use, as sculptors love to see their work stand the test of time. 

Some of Balogun’s publicly commissioned works include the 19 feet Obafemi Awolowo statue in Ikeja, Lagos and the Symbol of Justice and Culture statue at the University of Ibadan. Some of his pieces have been sold for about $18,000. 

Written by Adekunle Agbetiloye

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