How do you make people feel recycling isn’t a problem but a solution? A problem solved by a young woman from Lagos...
"Most people in Lagos have no idea why there is such a fuss about recycling. So we devised an incentive system with gifts. People are mainly motivated by what they get in return. Once they start recycling, they notice all the other benefits - cleanliness, less flooding, less disease... and then they understand why it’s a good idea to carry on doing it."
"We devised an incentive system with gifts. People are mainly motivated by what they get in return. Once they start recycling, they notice all the other benefits - cleanliness, less flooding, less disease..."
Who is talking the talk? Bilikiss Adebiyi, a native of Nigeria. This young woman had the privilege of studying at the prestigious MIT in Boston. And while she was there, an idea began to emerge.
The problem Bilikiss Adebiyi tackled concerns Lagos, the largest city in an overcrowded country. Every day its 21 million inhabitants generate nearly 10,000 tons of waste. But only 40% is recycled. Consequently heaps of plastic bottles, cans and other materials accumulate on enormous areas of wasteland. This waste is not without its consequences – for example drinking water sachets unthinkingly thrown away regularly clog the drains.
The solution devised by Bilikiss Adebiyi was Wecyclers - a fleet of cargo bikes plying their trade in the slums of Lagos. The cyclists go door to door, picking up the plastic and aluminum waste collected by households. Families are rewarded with points corresponding to the weight of the bags of waste they have collected. The points can be exchanged for gifts (food, toaster, kettle, mobile phone top-up, etc.).
Once sorted on a wasteland area, the waste is sold to recycling plants. Plastic bottles for example are processed into pellets that are then sold on to companies that manufacture items such as spoons, buckets and basins.
In its first two years of existence, Wecyclers, which already has 52 employees, collected over 525 tons of waste from 4,300 households. And already some people living in the slums say they have noticed the difference - dirty neighborhoods are now clean! A success for Bilikiss, who is now working on extending Wecyclers’ operating range...
Main picture: © Wecyclers