By Muhammad Auwal Ibrahim
Improper waste disposal is an unfortunate reality in Gombe State and is evident whenever one steps out. The first welcome one receives in areas like Pampo Market and around Pantami Police Division is from waste (such as bird feathers, papers, cans, and garbage) either brought by rain or disposed of by humans, accumulated in waterways or drainages causing nauseating odours and an eye sore. This is despite the State government’s effort of ensuring cleaner roads through cleaning companies who are responsible for sweeping roads and drainages.
The problem of poor waste management is not only prevalent in Gombe State as other States of the federation are equally suffering varying degrees of waste crises. In Nigeria, waste generated is estimated to be around 32 million tonnes of solid waste annually, one of the highest in Africa, according to a report by United Nations Industrial Development (UNIDO).
According to the United State Environment Protection Agency, waste threatens the health and safety of people by posing diseases and dangers to livelihood. Yet, the amount of waste generated in Nigeria is poorly managed due to the weak waste management system and violation of environmental laws. A 2018 survey conducted by Statista shows that 59.3% of waste in Nigeria was not formally disposed of. With experts stating that such habits have led to serious health, security, and environmental problems in most developing nations.
“As of 2018, waste in Nigeria was mainly disposed of informally. Specifically, around 59 percent of waste was managed informally. Disposal within the compound, instead, held 29 percent of the total waste management. Only about four percent of the refuse was collected by the government,” the report reads in part.
How AMAZ Enterprise is recycling papers
Recycling has been identified as one of the most effective ways to manage waste but as a country, Nigeria, still lags in establishing a functional recycling system. As a direct response, an initiative has created a means to transform dirt such as tissue paper rolls, used envelopes, and outdated wall calendars into decorative pieces.
The recycled papers are used as pen stands, interior wall decorations, and flower bases. Thus, reducing the rate of waste disposal. For now, the organization focuses on recycling waste items sourced from their immediate community. After collecting trash from family members, friends and community dwellers, they store up the garbage and convert them to art or decorative pieces.
“The waste materials like tissue paper rolls and wall calendars are sourced from our houses because we use a lot of tissue papers. So instead of throwing them away, we collect and make useful items from it, says Zainab Ibrahim, the CEO of the initiative, AMAZ Xcellent Enterprises.
The initiative’s debut work was a pen stand, originally made from empty tissue paper rolls and outdated wall calendars. They design it in different colours and willingingly customize them to suit the preference of their young, growing customer base. To make a pen stand, empty tissue paper rolls, outdated wall calendars, and gum are used then gumming beads and fabrics, for final beautification. The same process is used for decorative items.
For every pen stand made, a maximum of four empty tissue paper rolls is used plus a piece of calendar and fabric for wrapping it up. So far, the initiative has produced over 100 pen stands through the utilization of waste of about 400 tissue rolls.
To drive the adoption of recycling, the initiative has also trained 30 women in Gombe State on turning trash to art. Apart from decorations and designs, the group has innovatively introduced cake-like sweet candy, made with pieces of carton, papers and then the sweet gummed together to be purchased as gifts for little children during their celebratory ceremonies.
Not without challenges, the founder of the for-profit organization states that “Even though marketing is generally difficult, it is easier for tissue rolls pen stands because they are beautiful,”
Despite the items passing the aesthetic mark, many Nigerians have developed a taste for foreign-made goods. This Ibrahim says has dampened sales and frustrated distribution. As for functionality, the fact that the items can be easily damaged also contributes to low sales.
“The tissue rolls are not water resistant, so the pen stand can be damaged when it comes in contact with water,” says Ibrahim who also admitted that they are working to tackle this major challenge.
It is also common for customers to like the items and opt to purchase it without paying immediately. With an aim to promote recycling, Ibrahim says they allow customers to ‘buy now, pay later’ even though it’s not completely favourable for the business.
Why recycling is important?
Aliyu Sadiq, Founder/CEO Ecocykle Limited and an expert in the recycling industry stressed the need for recycling waste, adding that it is beneficial for nation-building.
“Turning trash into treasure brings about enormous environmental, economic, and social benefits. It helps to empower unemployed youths and vulnerable women thus helping to reduce poverty and enhancing youth productivity while ensuring a more thriving and healthy environment.”
Responding to training conducted by the enterprise, he said training more people on recycling is commendable as it is not a one-man business considering the huge amount of waste.
“Most definitely, the aim of a circular economy cannot be achieved if it is done by a single individual. Waste is found everywhere, and as such the need to train more people in the skills of waste recycling becomes critical. This will help to create a trickle-down effect of the social and economic impact associated with waste recycling while fostering a more sustainable environment.”
While Olufunto Buroffice, the Chief Executive Officer, Chanja Datti Ltd, a waste management initiative, lauded the initiative and noted that “It is definitely worthy of replication especially when one considers that paper is made from the pulp of trees. Cutting down of trees causes things like desertification, erosion, air pollution, eradication of natural habitat for animals such as birds and monkeys etc.
“Paper recycling helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It takes 70% less energy and water to recycle paper than to create new paper products from trees. Every ton of recycled paper saves about 17 trees so that’s a lot,” she said.
This story has been made possible by Nigeria Health Watch with support from the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems, http://solutionsjournalism.org.