WOMEN: Turning Waste To Wealth

Waste-1--DATELINE. November 22. Five women are standing on a heap of dustbin, their mouths covered so as to prevent them from inhaling offensive odour. They are busy picking objects from the waste. The dustbin is actually emitting an offensive odour, but the women are not disturbed. The heap has taken over the main road, obstructing free flow of traffic and other activities, but the women patiently select what could be described as valuable objects from the heap.

From polythene waste to plastic, metal, wood, glass, textiles and bricks, there are different types of recycling businesses in Nigeria. And with the economy biting harder, it is attracting more ‘investors’, so to say. The reason for this is obvious: It is one of the very few businesses you could start without capital.

So, what really is the attraction in waste? Why are more and more women taking to the trade?

A popular recycler on Akinola Street, Pleasure Bus stop, Iyana Ipaja, Lagos, Madam Anike Adedayo, told The Guardian that there is wealth in waste.

“When I started this business about 10 years ago, I was very poor. My family couldn’t afford one decent meal a day. People thought I was mad to be collecting waste. They looked down on me and called me all sorts of names. They even called my children ‘mama oni doti’, which literarily means, the child of the woman of waste.”

She added, “but it didn’t bother me, because I knew that I was sitting on a gold mine. People used to bring all kind of waste that they didn’t need. They will just come and dump them at my feet and I would receive them with open hands. So, I started looking for people to sell to. And by the time I got regular buyers, my story changed. I started making money from it.”

Though, Adedayo acknowledge the fact that there are possible health hazards with waste collection and recycling, she said women are however, ‘immune, as they don’t scavenge for all manner of recyclables like the men.

She said, “most of the male recyclers dig deep into heaps of waste looking for different kinds of waste materials, women hardly go that far. We female recyclers have our own mode and method of gathering and processing waste, so, we are not that exposed to diseases, like the males.”

For Mrs. Susan Adetula, managing director of Primewaste Nig Ltd, Abule Egba, a recycling company that has made over millions from exporting recycled waste, “more than 95 per cent of our raw materials are sourced from metallic wastes that are recycled for export to manufacture cars and ship parts.”

She said, “the fun of it is that you might even decide to start now without you having necessary capital at hand and still be making your money from the business.”

According to her, “recycling is an industry that adds value to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of a country that wants to create wealth and generate employment (such as Nigeria). We are 100 per cent export oriented. We are adding value to the country’s GDP and contributing to the growth of the economy.”

While saying that waste recycling in Nigeria is an untapped business, which if you decide to go into today, you are sure of making your cool money, Adetula pointed out that supplying of waste polythene for recycling is a lucrative business.

“Try it and you will have a story to share. Companies, agencies and even the government will be searching for investment. Waste polythene is material that has been used and discarded. Waste polythene can be transformed into useful raw materials for pure water sachet, black, white or any coloured poly bags, nylon used in wrapping new electronics like computer, television sets, cellphone or pharmaceutical drugs, even bread wrappers and all wrappers made of nylon.”

She said though some factories accept some polythene like those of noodles wrapper, detergent bags, biscuit wrapper, milk sachet, tea wrapper and propylene bags, however, “it is not all plastic that are considered economically viable by processor.”

Adetula revealed that some of the materials accepted in the recycling business include, shopping bags, laundry bags, pure water sachets, yoghurt wrappers, soft poly bags, hospital drip bags, pop corn wrapper, bread wrapper, cellophane.

Adebimpe Adeoye, a 21-year-old waste supplier in Oke Koto, Agege, told The Guardian how she used to comb the streets of Lagos in search of white-collar jobs. When all attempts to secure one failed, she joined the recycling business.

“Now I collect polythene waste from different sources and supply to the collection centre operator, who processes the materials and sell to others,” she confessed.

Adeoye said wastes are usually measured according to the category they belong to. “For instance, a kilogramme of polythene is sold for N30 to N50, depending on where you supply. You can gather and supply about 100kg to 300kg daily. Let’s say you are able to get just 100kg daily, you will be making N3,000. If only you can make N3,000 a day and work for only 20 days a month, you will be making N60,000. Is it not something worth living on? You may be wondering how a kg is measured, it is similar to the normal ones you know.”

Adeoye recalled how she wasted several years at home doing nothing after completing her ordinary national diploma. Her friend introduced her to the business. At first, it wasn’t easy coping with her new job, because of public perception. But, she soon got over it when money started coming in. And with the conviction that there was nothing wrong with recycling, she got into the business full time. Now, she has her own recycling unit, comfortable apartment where she and her other siblings and parent live.

For Adeoye, before going into the business, young people should do proper feasibility and understanding of the business, especially, in your environment. “Find out things such as address and contacts of all factories and plants where polythene and plastic wastes are recycled in Nigeria, when and how to contact them, the current price for a kg and how to negotiate with them at your preferred price,” she advised. “This is one of the untapped business ideas in Nigeria that can make you wealthy forever.”

These women said the following requirements would be helpful in case you decide to go into the business:

• Choose the recyclable materials to process. You can open a recycling center for all recyclable materials, but you may want to start with recyclable polytene first, especially, if you are just starting out and have very limited capital. Then gradually you should be able to expand to recycle bottles, cans, scrap metals, tires and other recyclable materials.

• Establish the business. You may want to run it as a sole proprietorship, a family co-ownership, a Limited Liability Company or a partnership. Get a business license and permit. With any small business, it is important to get a permit in order to operate.

• Get certified. Depending on your state’s regulations, you may need to register curbside collection programs, drop-off or collection programmes. It is required to get certification for operators to be able to buy or sell labeled containers.

• Find a suitable location for processing. If you do not plan to do recycling yourself, find out where you can let people drop off their recyclable materials that you will then take later to the main recycling centers.

• Buy or lease equipment to use. You would need a weighing scale, trucks, huge bins (one for each type of recyclable materials) and office equipment to help you run your business.
• Research the competition. If your city has plenty of recycling centers, you may want to research the type of processing they are running.

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