Nigeria’s most populous city, Lagos is facing a major waste management crisis that threatens to crush its skyrocketing population under a heap of health and environmental problems. The overburdened megacity produces 10,000 tons of trash every day, much of which clogs the city streets and leaches chemicals into the soil and groundwater. To solve the urban waste challenge from the inside out, entrepreneur Bilikiss Adebiyi launched the social enterprise Wecyclers to incentivize low-income households to hand off their recyclable goods to a fleet of low-cost cargo bikes.
Due to a lack of education and proper waste management, many of the city’s poor neighborhoods simply dump their trash into unmanaged garbage heaps that can spread infectious disease and exacerbate flooding. To put a price on the health and environmental costs, Wecyclers developed an SMS-based incentive system that rewards families that recycle with points that can be cashed in for rewards, such as cell phone minutes and basic household items. A fleet of specially outfitted cargo bicycles pedals through the dense neighborhoods to pick up the recycling on a regular schedule.
Since its launch 18 months ago, Wecyclers has collected nearly 200 tons of waste from 5,000 households. After collection, the recycled material is then sorted and sold to local recycling processors. “The incentive was a way to get the conversation started,” says Adebiyi to the AFP. “But then, as they’re recycling, then they see the other benefits, from the cleanliness, the reduction of flooding, reduction in diseases. People will now know why they should continue to recycle.”
Though the Wecyclers business currently employs about 30 people, the social enterprise plans to expand to more than a 100 by the end of this year and increase its reach across Lagos.
Images via WeCyclers