What do you get when you put together a fleet of tricycles, recyclable trash and a sprawling megacity?
An innovative African startup by the name of Wecyclers.
Backed by a small team of 31, chief executive Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola leads an incentive-based program that is tackling an acute waste management system problem in Lagos, Nigeria. Each week, nearly 5,000 participating households turn over their used plastic bottles, plastic bags, aluminum cans and other recyclable trash to the company’s traveling cyclists in exchange for redeemable reward points.
"Every three months they have opportunity to redeem the points for something," Adebiyi-Abiola told CNN. "So we give them really small gifts that just motivate them and encourage them to recycle."
The cyclists travel from door to door in low-income areas, transporting the waste in large cloth stacks attached to low-cost cargo bicycles. Ultimately, the waste is brought to a specific sorting location, sorted in bags and sold to recycling factories.
Home to more than 18 million people, Lagos reportedly produces 10,000 metric tons of waste every day. Sixty percent of this trash goes uncollected, resulting in littered gutters, streets and residential areas that are hazardous to one’s health and environment.
"I really love Lagos and I wanted to do something that would give back to it,” said Adebiyi-Abiola, a Lagos native who studied in the U.S. and received a masters from MIT.
"For me, the environment is really where it all starts," she adds. "When you have a clean environment, then you have health, when you have health, then you can start thinking about money, jobs and things like that."
While profits have yet to emerge, Adebiyi-Abiola expects this to change as the company grows and adds value to the material sold.
"I want to show the whole world that this is something that can succeed,” she said. "That we can create a low-cost way of solving the Nigerian problems, the Lagos problems, here, with Lagos solutions."
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(Photo: Courtesy of African Start-Up via CNN.com)
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