Scavenging: Boosting recycling business, creating wealth
The sight of scavengers rummaging through heaps of junks on dumpsites would likely arouse disgust in some people. But these people are not roaming streets and mechanic workshops gathering metal scraps, aluminum fillings, empty or broken plastic containers and sometimes, bottles, for the fun of it. They actually sell to recycling companies and make good money out of it.
Scavengers sometimes buy these items as domestic waste at a minimal amount and resell them to depot collectors, who take them to local smelting mill, where they are melted and formed into different items, including household appliances such as spoons, chairs and plates among others.
Ahmed Saliu, who has been gathering metal scraps for six years, explained that the waste materials they gather are used as raw materials by plastic and metal companies, which use them to produce different materials, both for domestic and industrial usage. He said these companies buy the items from them through middlemen, who usually weigh them and pay according to their measure. In his case, his group members collect items ranging from empty bottles to plastic materials, aluminum fillings and metal scraps.
“We bring these items to a common ground referred to as depot, where they are sorted out and weighed. After this, a trailer or lorry takes them to the company that use them as raw material. And though most people regard them as waste, they are fresh raw material to smelter mills.
“We get between N40 and N50 per kilogram, which means the more the kilo, the higher the amount one goes home with. However, I make between N500 and N1, 000 daily and between N60, 000 and N70, 000 monthly. The business pays my bills and I have no regret doing it ” he said.
Revealing that scavengers are the foot soldiers to local smelter mills, Leke Omoga said there is wealth in waste. According to him, most Nigerians do not know what to do with their metal scraps, which they believe constitute nuisance and so, are quick to dispose of them. But those that don’t throw theirs away sell them at a give-away price.
“Most times, we get good bargain from people, who throw away their metal scraps. We buy from them and make extra income. I sometimes buy a scrap of tricycle for N3, 000, but resell it for between N10, 000 and N15, 000. The business of waste is lucrative, but people underrate it and even give out what should be sold at high price to us for free. I make close to N100, 000 per month just picking and gathering metals,” he said.
Explaining that there are many local smelting companies waiting for scavengers to bring their products, Theo Aderemi said metal scraps come in two categories: Heavy Melting Scrap (HMS) and Used Rails (UR). HMS are recyclable steel and wrought irons, while UR are steel used for railway lines. As these scraps differ, so do their prices. He explained that most scavengers prefer to sell UR in the fairly used steel market, rather than mix them with other metal scraps.
Aderemi disclosed that the scavenging business is one that could easily change the fortunes of those involved for the better.
“Scraps have a ready market. One could resell items such as metal rods to building contractors or just sell them as scraps. The market is huge and scraps keep on increasing, especially with the importation of fairly used electronics,” he said.
According to him, one ton of HMS sells for between N30, 000 and N45, 000, depending on the depot and the bargainer, while aluminum of the same measure go for between N125, 000 and N135, 000. Ten tons of either metal make a trailer load.
“The business may look dirty, but it’s highly rewarding, especially for the middlemen, who buy directly from scavengers for smelting companies. Do you know that a damaged saloon car that was involved in an accident could go for almost N135, 000 at the scrap market?
“Since we cannot produce the right quantity and quality of the metal we require locally, some light smelting companies have no other choice than to depend on recycling to remain in business. As anything metal is money, we even buy old vehicle rims and engine parts not for vehicles’ use, but to be recycled,” he said.
Aside metal, water sachet or bottled water container is another lucrative line. Known as waste polythene, these materials could be transformed into useful raw materials for making bathroom slippers, plastic overhead tanks, plastic carrier bags, plates and other plastic related products.
Esther Ubong ventured into this business line, when she couldn’t find her footing in the metal scrap business. She explained that nylon waste is also a lucrative venture, as one could gather as many kilos as possible without necessarily going to dumpsites.
Most times, we get good bargain from people, who throw away their metal scraps. We buy from them and make extra income. I sometimes buy a scrap of tricycle for N3, 000, but resell it for between N10, 000 and N15, 000. The business of waste is lucrative, but people underrate it and even give out what should be sold at high price to us for free. I make close to N100, 000 per month just picking and gathering metals.
Said she: “Selling nylon waste is the easiest way to earn a living, as it is always around us, daily begging us to pick them. These are things we often disregard without knowing they could fetch us some money. We use and discard them anyhow and in the process, block the drainage system, yet they are money-spinning items. I make between N15, 000 and N17, 000 weekly from gathering nylon wastes.”
On how a new entrant can benefit from either metal or nylons waste collection, Abu Maolik said information is key. According to him, an entrant has to work with those that have been in the business to learn the ropes of the trade, as well as know which part of the business that would be to his/her interest.
Stressing that not all nylon wraps or waste are acceptable by processors, he explained that crispy nylons such as noodles wraps, detergent bags, biscuit wraps, milk sachet and tea wraps are not acceptable by most companies. As such, gathering them would amount to wasted effort and a drop in income.
Disclosing that a kilo of nylon waste could go for between N30, 000 and N40, 000 depending on one’s negotiating power, Mubarak Saheed said he makes close to N150, 000 per month. According to him, visiting markets and public gatherings, where large number of people would consume sachet or bottle water would be an added advantage, as one is able to gather large stock and rise fast in the business.
Advising new entrants to start small and gradually increase their supply channels, Saheed said the business also entails visiting places and looking out for supplies.
On the challenges of the business, Bamidele Adeshina urged scavengers to regularly go for medical checkup. According to him, working on dumpsites and dipping hands in filthy places may likely expose one to harmful diseases.
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