Nigeria: Promoting the Culture of Recycling in Local Communities

11 November 2019

Vanessa Obioha writes that Sahara Group through its 'Green Life' initiative is promoting the culture of recycling by incentivising local communities on waste management

The community hall in Ijora Oloye was filled with a buzzing crowd on a recent morning. The scene was similar to a social event with representatives of traditional rulers arriving at the venue in their royal apparels while the women -- mostly middle-aged -- rushed to the venue with curiosity written on their faces. The reason for the town hall meeting organised by the international conglomerate Sahara Group was to incentivise the community on waste management, particularly recycling.

With the effects of climate change broadly seen in the unpredictable changes in precipitation recently, Sahara Group through its new initiative 'Green Life' that was launched last June is leading the charge against the phenomenon. The company aims to attain and champion the sustainable development goals targeted at fostering sustainable environments and promoting holistic wellness.

Thus, on this particular day, the group led the campaign in promoting a cleaner, healthier and safer environment by launching the 'Recycle for Benefits Exchange'.

"This is our flagship project," says Pearl Uzokwe, the Director of Governance and Sustainability for the company. "We have been involved in various sustainable initiatives in the past 22 years of operation. What we have decided to do this year is to pay more attention to ensure that we create sustainable models in the environment that we operate from. Green Life is the umbrella that houses all our sustainable initiatives which include taking care of our environment and ensuring that it is a safer and healthier place".

Situated in Lagos state, Ijora is one of the communities that is overwhelmed by pollution. Statistically, Nigeria generates approximately 276,000 metric tonnes of waste daily. One tonne of waste is equivalent to twenty(20) 50kg bags of cement. Report shows that more than 40 per cent of household generated waste ends up on our streets and drainage causing obstruction to free flow of water. Such scenarios are seen in Ijora where drainages are filled with plastic and other waste materials.

To achieve its set objectives, the conglomerate partnered with the Lagos State Waste Management Agency (LAWMA) and Wecyclers, a notable recycling company. Residents were enlightened on how to sort out waste for recycling and benefit from it through different channels.

Recycling is one of the 3Rs of solid waste management. It is the process to change or transform waste and non-useable items into raw materials that can be used to create new objects. In Nigeria, the process is still novel.

Uzokwe disclosed that a lot of advocacy was done before they embarked on the scheme.

"One of the things we realised is that before you embark on a scheme like this, you have to do a lot of advocacy. You need to get into the minds of the people. In the future, we need to get to the point where we can raise awareness on what is going on as regards to climate change and pollution in the environment to the point where people take ownership of the environment. Just because we are not adversely affected by climate change doesn't mean it is non-existent.

"Some people think it is a foreign concept. Climate change is real and what we are trying to do is to bring it to this community in a language that they can understand. Let's start by tidying up our immediate environment. We are giving people empowerment tools they can use. We are happy to see various volunteers coming on board. This will not be a one-off intervention because these habits do not change overnight."

The group announced that it will be building its first recycling hub in the community where the Asharami Synergy Limited operates out of, which will be run by Wecyclers while agents of LAWMA will be on ground to monitor the progress of the initiative. The Lagos State Health Management Agency also introduced a health insurance scheme for residents to benefit from.

Also, Sahara is working with its partner company, Pearl Recycling, to train indigenes of the community in Ijora to upcycle waste products such as tyres and convert them into furniture, equip them with tools and set them on a path to sustainably train others in the community including students in a manner that helps tackle climate change whilst providing economic empowerment.

The group anticipates that the project will commence on a modular basis as the various elements are introduced, expanded and possibly in some cases swapped for others that will yield maximum social impact.

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