Africa has a waste problem and its evenly distributed across the continent. As of 2010, waste generation in Sub-Saharan Africa was approximately 62 million tonnes per year. In 15 years, this figure is expected to double. Economic development, urbanization, and an increase in income levels are often seen as positive trends. However, in dealing with Africa’s waste problem, these three factors are highly correlated with proliferating waste.
European Commission and U.N. studies shows that West Africa is becoming a dumping site for e-waste from various parts of the world. Meanwhile, communication technology and services firm Ericsson says West Africa is becoming highly affected by e-waste, relative to other regions on the continent. The problem is compounded by the fact that most countries in Africa do not have e-waste recycling facilities. The lack of facilities results in careless disposal of products.
In Lagos Africa most populous city, millions of plastic bags and bottles are used and disposed each minute in the region. The effects of prevalent disposal methods are alarming. Plastic and bottles are burnt in open fields or compounds. Carbon monoxide and cancer-causing fluorocarbons are emitted in the breathable air with each burning.
Clogged up gutters, landfill with waste, and heaped refuse piles contribute to the poor visuals of what could otherwise be a beautiful continent. Environmental degradation, global warming, and pollution are the by-products that come from indiscriminate and unplanned waste disposal. What are countries in the region doing to combat these practices with far-reaching effects?
Rwanda is a pioneer in combating Africa’s waste problem. In 2008, this small East African country put a ban on non-biodegradable plastic bags. This move has made it one of the cleanest countries in the region and Rwanda is well on its way to becoming the world’s first plastic free country.
Where nations as a whole have not actively addressed the endemic waste problem, concerned individuals in communities have done so. no wonder many start-ups in Africa are coming up with innovative ideas to solve this waste problem. Notable among such young entrepreneurs is Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola who founded wecyclers an innovative enterprise using an incentive-based program to help solve Lagos’s acute waste management problem. Thato Kgatlhanye & Rea Ngwane – Repurpose School bags, South Africa founded Repurpose School bags as a green initiative to help hundreds of school children in their local community in South Africa. Their idea provides recycled and low-cost school bags with an interesting twist and Andrew Mupuya – YELI, Uganda Uganda’s first paper bag production company. He got the idea to start this business in 2008, when the Ugandan government put a ban on the use of plastic bags in order to reduce the environmental damage it was causing.
While some are concentrating on direct recycling Olamide Babajide, founder of Pearl Recycling, an initiative that started in Nigeria, is turning waste into products that can be used at home.What began as a passion for décor in 2014 has recently led to Pearl Recycling being registered to do business. We began as an alternative décor company for people who needed home and office decors at an affordable price. This ignited something in me and propelled me to start Pearl Recycling.”
Olamide holds a Bachelor’s degree in Technology and has received numerous certifications in computer engineering. With almost a decade of working professionally with multinational companies, it is her creative side that has made a mark on the continent as a social entrepreneur. An alumni of The Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Program, this training helped re-brand her company from a décor vendor to an industry pioneer. Pearl Recycling is now aware of the potential impact that can be exerted on the environment when active interest is developed in the areas of environmental sanitation and solid waste upcycling. They upcycle solid wastes like scrap tire, plastic, bottle, paper, cork and corn husk into exquisite home and office furniture/décor.
Their products appeal to the needs of over 40 million Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 70 years. From making creative piece of arts from solid waste and selling to friends and families, Pearl Recycling offers Nigerian the opportunity to live in presentable conditions while being able to purchase affordable and high quality décor. How does the team feel about working to satisfy their growing clientele?
Olamide says, “Our clients are in every state of the country covering a large demographic and we have been able to meet the needs of 98% of our clients.”
Changing the African narrative is no easy feat for small enterprises like Pearl Recycling. Still, Olamide is a social entrepreneur who is passionate about the impact businesses like hers can make on the continent.
“Waste Management in Africa is pretty new and a lot of people are unaware of the treasures we have in everyday waste. We want to awaken the consciousness of Africans to treasures in waste and let them know that “it’s a waste to waste their waste”.
We want to redefine local production from upcycled waste and increase internally generated income through waste upcycling.”
It does not take a lot of capital, labor, and time to make treasures from people’s waste. Today, Pearl Recycling’s staff strength includes one full-time employee and five contract staff. A single product can be processed in just 45 minutes, giving many an opportunity to work on recycling on a part-time basis while still employed. Operating on a vision to be the number one reference name for creative waste upcycling in Africa, Pearl Recycling continues to make, exhibit, and train others to produce affordable household furniture and décor from recycled products.
Starting out as a company focused on Nigeria’s recycling needs, the team at Pearl Recycling has received invitations to exhibit in Dubai and partnership offers from people in Ghana and Rwanda eager to be a part of its distribution network. Identified competitors include: Terracycle,Looptworks, and Hipcycle. Expanding to an international market is certainly an integral part of this recycling company’s mission.
Customer Relations is the edge Pearl Recycling hopes to have over its competitors. “To us, customer relations is not a department but an attitude. We treat our customers beyond their expectations and they in turn bring in more clients for us through referrals. Our respond time to online enquiries is super-fast and clients especially first-timers are impressed.” The creative ways Olamide and her team have found to combat the growing waste problem in the region is impressive enough and it is exciting to see that the best is still yet to come.
For other entrepreneurs on the verge of tackling Africa’s social problems, Olamide has this to say. “Never let anyone look down on you or your brand. Remember, not everyone can be your target market. Understand your target market and reach out to them intelligently. Keep your network efficient because that will ultimately determine your net-worth.”
Brand Name: PEARL RECYCLING
Motto: Your Waste, Our Treasure.
Phone Number: +2347019268146
Biz address: A18, Riggs Plaza, Omole Bus-stop, Omole Phase 1, Ikeja Lagos
Awards & recognition: Winner, Wimbiz Impact Competition, 2016
Alumna, The Tony Elumelu Foundation
Social Enterprise: Growing a Sustainable Business – University of Middlesex
Going Green for Business Entrepreneurs – Young African Leaders Initiative
Peace Building and Leadership development – Federal Ministry of Youth Development