Waste Recycling: An Alternative Means Of Revenue Generation. Manasseh Paul-Worika

With a population of nearly two hundred million people; Nigeria generates a lot of waste. The Waste Management society of Nigeria (WAMASON) estimates that nearly sixty-five million metric tons of waste is generated in the country per annum. This has caused a waste management crisis, especially in many urban centers where municipal authorities struggle to efficiently dispose of trash. Although some Nigerians regard waste as completely useless, there are business-savvy entrepreneurs who recognize the immense potentials in waste management and have taken steps towards harnessing them.

In Nigeria, the recycling industry is still in its infancy compared to what obtains elsewhere in the world. This means the business potentials of recycling are currently being under-utilized. There is need to invest in the sector, and gain maximally from this hugely profitable but neglected gold mine left to scavengers.

Today, the recycling industry is estimated to be worth several billions of Naira. But this is nothing compared to the revenues it has the potential to generate if the right investments are made.

A visit to the popular Airport road dump site in port-Harcourt would reveal the potentials available in harnessing waste.

Located along the new Airport road, Port Harcourt, one can perceive the pungent smell of rot that emanates from the place. Here, solid waste from Port Harcourt and environs such as Igwuruta, Rupokwu, Mgbouba, Choba, Rumuosi, etc., are brought and dumped. It is also in dump sites like this one that most of the recycling efforts take place.

Recycling involves a long chain of business operations that begin from the dump sites. For instance, the dump site is privately owned and managed. Like most of the other sites in the city, scavenges are charged the sum of N200 daily before they are allowed to pick valuable recyclables ranging from metals, plastics, etc.

Several laborers work daily, and the materials they recover from the waste dump is purchased by middlemen who sell them to recycling companies or by representatives of the recycling companies.

A lady at the dumpsite who pleaded anonymity revealed that she works in the procurement department of a recycling company (name withheld) in Port Harcourt and that they specialize in metal recycling.

She said, “We basically recycle aluminum/metals and use them to produce new things such as pots, plates, spoons, etc. I work in the procurement department of my company. So it is my work to source for production materials. This is one of the places I come to source for materials”.

According to her, costing of materials is dependent on the type, quantity and quality of material to be purchased.

She said, “Measurement is also very important in this business. We weigh everything. I pay between N40, 000 to N45, 000 for just one ton of metal. So depending on the quantity of metal I am buying. Sometimes I spend nearly half a million naira in a single day. Today alone, I’ve transferred N400, 000 to that man over there”.

She also revealed that aluminum is more expensive than scrap metal, noting that while the price of a ton of metal is around the N40,000 mark, one ton of aluminum can cost more than N100,000.

All over the world, recycling waste is becoming big industry, as more and more people realize the need to protect the fragile ecosystem that is increasingly being threatened by population explosion which has stretched our natural resources to their limits.

With the rate of landfills and additional waste products polluting our forests, beaches, oceans and other natural environments, recycling has become truly an urgent and important matter that we must consider.

More interesting, is the fact that, recycling helps in reducing the amount of trash in landfills, thereby saving the planet from degradation. Recycling also provides for more cost effective materials in the manufacturing of new items.

The business of recycling varies around the world. While, in some parts of the developed world, recycling waste is done out of necessity, with strict legislation backing it, in most low-to-medium-income developing nations, almost 100 percent of generated waste goes to landfill.

For instance, Rome is quite strict regarding the issue of recycling. As it is in Rome, if you don’t separate your recyclable product from your waste, and keep a recycling bin within 500 meters from your front door, you can be fined up to 619 Euros (N133, 142.00).

Japan’s Home Appliance Law, places the responsibility of recycling on everyone, from the consumers to the manufacturers. To that effect, if you need to get rid of a large appliance, you are required to pay a recycling fee and purchase a ticket.

Known for their passion for recycling, Sweden goes one step further. The city’s garbage is used to create heat and electricity. In recent times though, they have found themselves in a bit of a plight, having run out of garbage. Thankfully, Norway is helping out, by not only paying Sweden to take their garbage, but also importing it over for their use.

However, in the case of Nigeria, which still suffers from waste management problems, like many other developing economies, the issue of recycling is treated with kid’s glove. Waste management legislation in the country, where available, is scattered, scanty, obsolete and non-effective, in many cities, by-laws, prohibiting littering and providing appropriate disposal infrastructures are deficient.

This is why tons of recyclable materials that could be transformed into massive wealth for the country are discarded, incinerated and land-filled.

For countries that have adopted waste recycling as a necessity, recycling is seen as an important means of economic development. Apart from contributing to the economy, by helping to conserve resources and save money, recycling also creates jobs and promotes a healthy and secure environment.

For instance, one of Europe’s leading waste management businesses, Shank, provides a range of recycling and energy recovery solutions to customers in both the public and private sectors. The company, which operates in the Netherlands, Belgium, UK and Canada, employs about 4000 people and achieves an overall recycling and recovery rate of 77% from 7.7 million tons of waste each year.

With a huge population of nearly 200 million, Nigeria has a lot to benefit if measures are put in place to ensure that the policy of recycling is taken seriously and dealt with appropriately.

The federal and state governments, need to create and enforce laws to prevent illegal dumping of waste and follow through with sanctions.

There is also need for investments to build a virile waste management sector, that would ensure the construction of recycling plants across the country.

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