Recycling for environmental sustainability and social welfare

Inspired by a school assignment at MIT Sloan School of Management, Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola of Wecyclers in Nigeria shares how her organisation has allowed people in low-income communities to capture value from their waste. Through this, her organisation has been able to provide a reliable supply of materials to the local recycling industry. She also shares challenges of running a recycling business in a place when there was a wrong perception towards waste management.

Wecyclers was fully established in August 2012. The idea for Wecyclers was inspired and developed while I was in the United States as a student at the MIT Sloan School of Management. I was assigned to a study project to help people at the bottom of the pyramid (people living on less than $2 a day) and decided to work on waste with the focus on its uses, collection and processing.

After the project was completed, we, the project team, did some research and saw the huge potential in the waste recycling sector in Nigeria. Manufacturing plants were hungry for cheaper and easily available sources of raw materials due to local and foreign demand for end products. As a result Wecyclers was born.

The two main challenges I faced when I started my business was getting funding and the perception people had towards waste management. Grants and sponsorships from local and international organisations have helped meet the financial needs of the company. In terms of trying to change the perception that people have, we have been able to educate people about recycling. We have had outreaches and educational lectures about proper waste management, disposal and the benefits of recycling both financially and environmentally.

The most important lesson I have learnt is to appreciate failure. No matter how many times you fail or get rejected, don’t lose faith, keep going. Things will eventually work out. I would encourage other entrepreneurs to look for opportunities throughout the waste value chain. There are several opportunities in collection, resource recovery and recycling. With thorough analysis and understanding of the market it is very possible for entrepreneurs to carve their niche in the waste space. Waste management is a growing field in developing countries and is poised to deliver huge gains for developing economies, once fully harnessed.

To learn more about Wecyclers visit their website www.wecyclers.com.