Remove, Reduce, and Recycle – The Waste Nylon Sachet Water in Nigeria

Solid waste constitutes an immense environmental challenge in Nigeria. Waste management has always been a major source of concern in our environment. We generate waste everyday; in our homes, offices, market place, parks, everywhere! In a city like Lagos, that has over 23 million people, an estimated 13,000 metric tons of waste is generated daily. An individual produce an average of 0.58kg of solid waste every day. Bottles, glass, papers, nylons, food scraps, appliances, furniture, metal scraps and other household items that are no longer in use and thrown away all constitute municipal solid waste.

Over 15% of the municipal solid wastes generated are from plastics and nylons. We have over 1,500 pure water factories alone in Lagos. They produce a lot of waste nylon and plastic bottles. Due to the inadequate supply of public drinking water, 8 in 10 households in the urban cities drink ‘pure’ sachet water and plastic bottled water. More than 65% of individuals drink pure water which has resulted to about 60 million used water sachet dispose daily across the country. Waste pure water nylons can be seen easily littered everywhere. This waste water sachet nylon and plastic bottles are indiscriminately dumped in drainages, gutters, canals and the streets. They end up blocking flow of water in drainages thereby causing flooding.

While the organic waste pose a lesser danger to the environment as it can easily decompose, waste nylons and plastics pose serious environmental issues and nuisance to the environment. They are non biodegradable. It is estimated that it takes between 30 to 40 years for a nylon fabric to decompose. This reduces water infiltration into the soil, land degradation, and can also make landfill site to fill up quickly.

Burning of waste nylon and plastic bottles can cause air pollution. Poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide, furans and dioxins are released to the air. They can endanger public health, destroy the ozone layer and contribute to global warming.

So how can we efficiently remove and manage the enormous heaps of waste nylon and plastic bottles  around us without destroying our environment? Green recycling is the way forward. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recycling is “the separation and collection of materials that otherwise would be considered waste, the processing and remanufacturing of these items into new products, and the use of the recycled products to complete the cycle. Green recycling ensures that whole cycle process is carried out with little or no negative impact on the environment.

Green Recycling of waste nylon is a veritable tool that can promote both social and environmental development. The green recycling business has a lot of benefits to the environment and the society in general. It helps to protect the environment, enhance a cleaner environment, create jobs, generate revenue, brings about poverty eradication programs, reduce municipal solid waste, save cost and energy among others.

Small and Medium Enterprise (SMEs), Green Entrepreneurs and individuals that are passionate about the environment should tap into this emerging business opportunity. The business process involves collection, separation and reduction of waste nylon and plastic bottles and then remanufacturing it into either same product or entirely new products. Items that can be made from recycled waste nylon and plastic bottles include shopping bags, nylons, waste disposable bags, nylon sachets e.t.c.

Speaking at the 10th national council on the environment, the minister of the environment, Amina Mohammed said the Federal government is working on the waste to wealth initiative to protect the environment and create entrepreneurs. The Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) under the auspices of the Lagos state government launched the recycling of waste to wealth and buy back waste program in an effort to clear the city of refuse. The agency has set up a waste collection points known as waste banks across the city. With clearly marked waste bins, waste can be sorted from source for onward processing.

In Lagos, Nigeria, 9,000 MT of waste is generated daily in Lagos out of which 1,200 MT is converted to useful resources. Through the zero waste initiative to reduce the amount of refuse in the city, various waste recycling plants has been built in various locations. 8% of the waste is used for composting, 1% for paper recycling, 2% for plastic and nylon recycling plant while the rest waste are converted to other resources.

Venturing into the waste nylon recycling business is profitable and sustainable. The raw material which is in this case the waste nylon can be easily sought and found. It can be picked at events, restaurants, pure water factories and also dumpsites. With very little or no capital, one can start as a supplier; collecting waste nylons (polythene) and selling it to companies that recycle nylons or to the state government through the waste buyback program. Examples of waste polythene nylon include pure water sachet, used polythene wrappers, and used poly bags. A kg of pure water sachet supplied is bought at N70 and a bag full of pure water sachet contains 20kg in weight.

To be a recycler requires some amount of capital. To set up a small scale recycling plant that can process 2 ton per day could cost about N4,500,000 Million Naira (11,000 dollars) while a relatively larger plant could cost about N14,000,000 Million Naira (35,000 dollars). The machines can be imported or fabricated locally. Machines needed to start up the plant are extruder machine, recycling and pelletizing machine and cutting machine.

Cart pushers and scavengers can be hired to pick valuable waste polythene nylons from dumpsites and landfill sites. When collected, the waste nylon polythene are sorted, dried, grind and fed into the recycling plant. This waste polythene is converted into very useful products such as shopping bags, waste disposal bags, wrapper nylons, and laundry bags.

Nylon bags are essentially in great demand. It can be sold to shopping malls, supermarkets, individuals, restaurants, public markets, water factories and waste management companies. There is the low density and high density polythene nylons and the high density polythene nylons.

Obinna Anyanwu, a recent youth corp member was able to produce school bags, mackintosh raincoats, shower caps and office folders from recycled pure water sachet. Mrs Matilda, an eco-entrepreneur has a small plant that recycles waste from pure water sachet nylon into waste disposal bags of different sizes and colors. She now exports some of her products to the neighboring West African countries.

There are still relatively few players in the industry. The market size for green recycling is still very large. Very few entrepreneurs have been able to take advantage of this opportunity as there is great potential for growth in the business. The return of investment is high. The waste generated during the recycling process is also recycled, ensuring that cost is maximized and the potential for loss is greatly reduced to the minimal.

Government has been actively involved and partnering with entrepreneurs interested in creating wealth from waste. Trainings, empowerment programs, workshops are some of the programs organized through the public private partnership. The Federal Government through the Bank of Industry now gives loans to eco entrepreneurs. SMEs and companies that are interested in establishing waste recycling plants or process waste plastics can have access to fund with very little interest rate and up to a maximum of 7 years tenor.


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Mr Adesola Adedugbe is an Environmental professional with a strong interest in water and environmental sound management. Mr Adesola has been involved in various environmental advocacies. He has over 8 years’ experience in the banking sector where he worked in the area of development and implementation of marketing and sales strategy. Adesola is the promoter of Teesol Environmental Consult, a green consulting firm. He is currently on the management board of the IWA sustainability specialist group. Mr Adesola Adedugbe holds a Master degree in Environmental Chemistry and pollution control and a B.Tech degree in Industrial Chemistry. He is a member of the Institute of Chartered Chemist of Nigeria (ICCON), a Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) and a member of the International Water Organisation (IWA).

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