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July Editions

July Editions

Getting a taste of Social Entrepreneurship through Wecyclers

Our biggest strength as an organization is the team. We have a very strong team that is loyal to the cause, model and the organization, this is entirely different and a lot stronger than loyalty to the boss. – Boluwaji Oyewumi


Boluwaji Oyewumi is a Mechanical Engineering graduate from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife, Nigeria. Boluwaji is passionate about driving sustainable development. During his time at Wecyclers, he served in various capacities including his last role leading business development. He is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Community. In this interview Boluwaji further talks about his motivation, challenges and experiences during his time at Wecyclers.

I started out my career working for an international firm and left after six months there to pursue my dream of social entrepreneurship. I felt that the corporate environment boxed me in. I needed more flexibility and an organization that would support my dreams, and that was how I got to find myself at Wecyclers.

I got to know about Wecyclers through a very funny scenario. I was looking for movies on a friend’s computer and stumbled on CEO, Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola’s interview with Ndani TV. I immediately got interested in what Wecyclers was doing and decide to reach out through email. I was called in for an interview, which culminated in me interning with the Wecyclers team – learning what was going on within the social space and after 2 months of this I got in fully as a team member.

Wecyclers is a pioneer in the waste management sector with its unique model. Wecyclers has been able to carve a niche for itself while making an impact on the communities that it serves currently. The model works and rapid expansion is ongoing. I feel honored to have been a part of this organization and this model. Working with Wecyclers was a completely different ball game for me coming from my corporate experience angle. It opened my eyes to how social enterprises operate in developing countries, learning that little things really matter and how little things can as well blossom overtime. Wecyclers changed my approach to things, people, communities, development and it totally has been a positive experience for me.

What is your definition of social entrepreneurship? 

From my experience and learning process, social entrepreneurship is the “process” whereby an entrepreneur establishes an enterprise with the aim of solving social problems whilst being financially sustainable. The intention is what separates a social enterprise from a regular business. The goal is to create positive social impact within the focus areas.

Why do you think social enterprises are important for a country like Nigeria?

A country like Nigeria cannot afford to run businesses the regular way. There has to be a conscious decision to merge impact driven activities with profit making. The socio-economic problems affecting the country can only be tackled when businesses begin to understand the need for them to ensure a synergy between making money and creating positive societal changes. From the environment, to education, to energy, to health, there are so many issues to tackle and the market is huge for every impact driven business to succeed.

The socio-economic problems affecting the country can only be tackled when businesses begin to understand the need for them to ensure a synergy between making money and creating positive societal changes

How has working at Wecyclers improved you as a person?IMG_9239

The biggest challenge Wecyclers has is that of being a pioneer in a sector where only a few people have been doing it informally and we have had to make mistakes, learn and get better. We are surmounting these challenges and we have found strength, our biggest strength as an organization is the team. We have a very strong team that is loyal to the cause, model and the organization, this is entirely different and a lot stronger than loyalty to the boss.

The experience I have gained at Wecyclers from the team to the clients cannot be compared to anywhere else. Wecyclers has made me understand that you can do anything as long as you put your mind to it. Working with Bilikiss on several projects had shown me the importance of clear communication with your team and how the little things matter. Wecyclers is a family!

How can others looking to become social entrepreneurs get started?

Dr. Prabhjot Singh said: “We spend a lot of time designing the bridge, but not enough time thinking about the people who are crossing it”. Young individuals who are thinking about starting social enterprises must understand their target market, their problems and most importantly, how they can solve at least one of these issues using means within their reach.

Aspiring social entrepreneurs need to fully understand what social issue they want to tackle and strategically align their business model to solving that issue. They should never discard a learning opportunity. They must keep it simple and never over-complicate their plan. Go at it with all passion and determination. During challenging times, hold on to your belief and it will work itself out perfectly. Finally, cherish your relationship with people because those are the individuals you will call to grow your business and assist during the challenging times.

There were challenging moments and it was important for me to learn from them and as well the business needed these challenges to grow.

My next assignment involves working in new territories, I’m moving to East Africa to explore new aspects of social entrepreneurship where I hope to make animpact.

Boluwaji Oyewumi

Head, Business Development, Wecyclers


July Editions

Where Talent Meets Opportunity With Abiodun

Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads. – Erica Jong


Abiodun Oshioye

“I’ve come to learn that there is nothing that cannot be done as long as you have interest in it” says Abiodun Oshioye, Technical specialist, Wecyclers.

Abiodun Oshioye is a technical specialist on the Wecyclers team. A 2004 National Diploma (ND) holder in Electrical Engineering from Kwara Polytechnic, Abiodun started out with interest in mechanical engineering but fate would see him study electrical engineering. After his ND, he went ahead to work with several firms before he stumbled on Wecyclers through a friend.

He was employed as a Wecycle rider but Abiodun got his chance one day when an equipment went bad and in his words “I showed up my skills”, he was subsequently engaged as a technical specialist working on the plastics crushing machine, electrical supply within the Wecyclers hubs and offices. At Wecyclers Abiodun says he has gained a lot of experience on new things and areas of mechanical and electrical engineering. His work with the Wecyclers team has seen him work on the Wecycles, tricycles and sometimes on the pickup vans. In his words “I love learning and it gets better when it’s engineering. It’s been really nice working here as they all appreciate me doing the job.”

img_0088As a technical specialist, Biodun’s work is not limited to one of the Wecyclers location. As he is involved in
all technical aspects of the Wecyclers operation. Biodun provides support to all the hubs across Lagos and to the office, servicing equipment and electrical operations to ensure that operations are running at full range. On a typical day the very cheerful Biodun ensures all the machines for operations are in good condition before any work is done.
In 20 months, as a staff of Wecyclers, Biodun says the teams’ belief in his abilities remains a major driving force for him as it has pushed him to do his job better and learn from mistakes. Also riding the Wecycle around for pickup of recyclable waste brings excitement to him “I’ve never felt bad about doing this job. I’ve had to ride the wecycle in my neighborhood and I do everything with joy as I believe this will make things work out well for me. I got the money I used in getting married from this job and even the money I used to get an apartment from this job as well. I’m very happy here”

On Wecyclers operations, “Wecyclers has helped a lot in Lagos, it’s like doing a cleanup/sanitation every day, picking up waste, cleaning the environment and getting people within their communities to know there’s also value in the waste. In my neighborhood for example you cannot easily see a PET bottle on the floor as people rush after these because they know they can get value from it, this has made me see that Wecyclers has changed the approach to waste in Lagos. I think the Government also has a role to play in the Wecyclers operations, we can do better as an organization and cover more locations around Nigeria. I recently watched a documentary that shows how the Government is of support to the South African recyclers and this can also be the case here.

img_0100The response around the areas we currently cover is impressive and that means we can make more impact but of course, we need more funding as well as partnerships from both the Government and the private sector. We have been able to create awareness with the little team we have and I tell my colleagues we need to put in more effort as a team.”

Abiodun attributes his success to determination and a good working relationship with the Wecyclers management and his team. When it comes to his personal life/career, Abiodun says he is working hard to build his skills and get better at what he does so he can be in the best position to take care of his family. Abiodun, is our Wecyclers person of the month!

July Editions

Reducing Plastic Waste: What To Do

by Ajibola Ameerah


Over 600,000 tons of plastic waste is generated yearly in Lagos State alone with a minute amount properly collected. One major problem of plastic, it is not degradable, at least not for so many years. A common sight is to see plastic waste laying virtually everywhere.

The dangers of plastic waste pollution are numerous ranging from environmental hazards transcending not only on land but also finding its way to the oceans affecting marine life to personal health hazards with the slums as the worst hit areas.

What do we do? How do we reduce the amount of plastic waste generated to the barest minimum considering most consumables are protected or packaged by one form of plastic or the other?


Below are some easy tips to follow

  1. Use a reusable produce bag. A single plastic bag can take 1,000 years to degrade. Purchase or make your own reusable produce bag and be sure to wash them often!
  2. Bring your own garment bag to the dry cleaner
  3. Repurpose the plastic that you already have. Cups and yogurt tubs make great planters, and bags can be woven into baskets and mats. The tops of water bottles can be sliced off to make awesome seals for bags of food.
  4. Buy detergent that comes in cardboard boxes instead of plastic containers.
  5. Line your garbage bins with paper bags or biodegradable trash bags instead of buying plastic trash bags.
  6. For parties or at work, avoid using disposable cups and plastic utensils. Use real silverware and cups and wash them later or purchase compostable ones.
  7. For the popular pure water, why not make your own drinking water?
  8. Buy cloth diapers instead of disposable ones. They might be messier, but they create much less waste compared with disposables, which don’t decompose and amount to a huge amount of landfill waste per year.
  9. Sell products without packaging.
  10. Buy in bulk
  11. Say no to straws
  12. Have your personal refillable bottle and travel mug handy so you do not have to buy bottled water all the time.

And always remember- It’s Reduce, Reuse, Wecycle!

Culled from:

July Editions

Interning with Wecyclers has helped me build my skill – Aderayo

Aderayo Onipede Nathaniel

Aderayo Onipede Nathaniel

In a world where developing the right skill set and work experience is increasingly important in the workplace, people around the world are beginning to take up internship roles. The importance of an internship experience cannot be overstated.  Today, employers favor prospective employees who have done not only one internship but multiple internships.  A university education will serve to propel a graduate into a profession by conferring a degree, which demonstrates an academic proficiency in various theoretical and practical examples of ways that a job might be performed.  An internship makes the classroom’s abstract theories, skills and learned examples concrete by placing the student in a real life work situation with real live co-workers performing actual professional tasks, which the job encompasses.

I recently chatted with one of such individuals who sees internships as critical for practical skill development is Aderayo Onipede Nathaniel.  He is a student of the University of Lagos, and a designer who won the Wecyclers design challenge which was hosted by Stutern; an online platform that connects interns with employers. With over 1 year of experience on the job, Rayo says the experience has been amazing.


Aderayo (c) winner of our design challenge, Boluwaji (l); Head of Business Development, Wecyclers and Taiwo Ayanleye; Co-founder, Stutern


At Wecyclers, he works with the communication team to produce materials and publications for a wide range of audience. Rayo’s materials have helped the team in several projects including the largely successful #Clean9ja campaign and the recently launched Independent Contractors program. For him, Wecyclers is doing “God’s work” by keeping waste away from landfills, reducing pollution in turn giving people a cleaner environment and creating value from waste by rewarding subscribers and working at Wecyclers has helped improve his skill and multi task better and as well get to learn more about recycling and an opportunity to explore several other fields and industries working on projects with teams/Wecyclers partners and sponsors from a wide range of industries.

Rayo had words of advice for future individuals interested in picking up an internship role; Get the right skill and know what you want to do, use online platforms to learn and develop your skill, stay relevant and updated in your field of choice.

Ebube Okechukwu

July Editions

Textile Fabric made from Milk

Ajibola Ameerah


As much as possible, we should aim at waste reduction, reuse, and recycling before throwing out the waste. If waste must go to the bin, please know that the waste may well be the source of wealth for someone.

The idea behind all waste to wealth efforts is that most waste materials are not end products to be disposed of. But rather that waste materials are valuable resources that can be processed and converted into usable materials like textile, paper, fertilizer, fuel, containers, fashion accessories, building materials, food nutrient and bio oxidants to mention a few.

There are lots of benefits to be derived from waste and a lot of options for deriving wealth from waste are being explored and exploited across the world. One success story is a German start- up that uses milk that would have gone to waste to manufacture textile fibres using sustainable processes.

The company Qmilch GmbH, founded by German designer Anke Domaske, has developed an innovative process to produce a textile fiber from milk which cannot be used for consumption.

Casein is the main resource for the textile fibre and it is obtained from raw milk, that is no longer tradable and which cannot be used as food. In Germany where the textile fibre was developed, about 1.9 million tons of milk must be disposed of every year. This milk still contains valuable ingredients and offers great potential for technical purposes. The textile fiber is made from 100% renewable resources and so it is

  • It is biodegradable, leaves no traces and contains 0% chemical additives
  • It is naturally antibacterial and ideal for people that suffer from textile allergies
  • Organic fiber tested for harmful substances and dermatologically tested for skin and
  • Blends well with other fibers
  • Like silk, it’s also temperature regulating, light, absorbent, compostable and flame resistant. Fabrics made from the fiber provide high wearing comfort

If you are thinking of how to turn waste to wealth, the following guidelines may be useful:

  • What is the end product? Will it be useful?
  • What is the source of the waste material to be used for the product? Is it available in large quantities? Can it be available in large quantities? Is it sustainable?
  • What processes will be used for converting the waste?
  • What are the costs/ benefits of the initiative? Consider the environmental and economic costs and benefits? Which is more?
  • How do you aggregate the waste to be converted?
  • How do you get the new product to the market?
  • How will you fund the venture?
  • What partnerships will you require? State involvement? Private ventures?
  • How do you convince stakeholders? Think about your waste suppliers, the consumers of the new product, authorities etc.

You can also join the ‘Wecyclers Independent Contractor Program!


So, the next time you are about to throw away that thing; food, paper bottle, anything! Please stop, put on your thinking hat and think; what might this be useful for?
And always remember- It’s Reduce, Reuse, Wecycle!

Culled from:[10].pdf

July Editions

How I started Recycling


Wecyclers subscriber form

Our model solves the urban waste challenge for households by motivating families to recycle plastic bottles, plastic sachets, and aluminum cans through our SMS-based incentive program. For every kilogram of material that families recycle with us, they receive redeemable Wecyclers points over their cell phones in return. Families can then redeem their points for goods that they value, such as cell phone minutes, basic food items, and household goods. This makes redemption day pretty much an eventful ceremony for our subscribers and of course for us as a team.

Having to get rewards for accumulated points from recyclables brings some sense of pride, the pride similar to eating/cooking agricultural produce from your backyard garden. We had one of such redemptions recently and it was pure joy to witness the enthusiasm on the part of subscribers at the community.


Mrs Comfort Bassey (L) and Daniel Bassey (R) displaying some of the items redeemed with Wecyclers staff

This redemption held in a community in the Lagos Central senatorial district had residents in about 4 streets within the community redeem their points for household items. One of such persons was Comfort Bassey. Mrs Bassey is a petty trader and lives in this neighborhood with her family.

According to her, she got to hear about recycling through her son. “He came to me and requesting I allow him register to register to give his waste out for gifts”. Comfort says she gave him her permission in December, 2015 and also went ahead to ensure all recyclable materials were kept, gradually she says they gave their waste and the entire family and other residents got involved in the drive to keep recyclables.

When my son and I started, people around thought we were joking about getting rewards for waste but I can tell you now about five other families in my “yard” are now giving out their waste to Wecyclers

When asked what she thought about the reward system, Mrs Bassey says; It has made a difference for us around here, before now the recyclables; plastics, beverage cans e.t.c would litter the street and sometimes we dump them somewhere but now you barely ever find one because everyone is conscious as they know they can get something from it, today I’m getting beverage, noodles, household items from what I normally would have thrown away, it is totally different from what we do before by paying to have our waste picked by PSP and the bola although we still give them waste but not after we have picked/taken out(sort) what we want to give Wecyclers.


Reuben Lawal displays recyclables he gathered recently

Having to chat with Mrs Comfort’s son, Daniel Bassey gave another exciting angle to her recycling story.  Daniel a teenager and Junior Secondary student says he got to hear about Wecyclers in school; I heard about it through my friends in school and in December when they (the Wecyclers team) came for an outreach I took the flier and the form to show my mum and request for her permission and since then we have been recycling. Daniel says recycling helps him practicalize sanitation which he learns in his school curriculum and more importantly he is benefiting from it. Through Daniel, Wecyclers has gained some more subscribers including the five subscribers from his residence, their families and others like Reuben Lawal (a Primary six pupil) and his mum.

Recycling may be new to them but it is something that this community is embracing fast and more importantly through the awareness we are having a younger generation become aware of the need to recycle and the benefits it affords them. Daniel, Mrs Comfort, Reuben and others are taking action and spreading the word about recycling, what are you doing and what is your recycling story?

July Editions

From a subscriber to an Apostle; Jubril shares his story


Mrs Katimi Jibrin

Mrs Katimi Jibrin A.K.A Hajia is a supervisor at Wecyclers and manages 23 sorters and six recycle boys. Asides been a family woman with children on the home front including Jummai, her weekly routine involves managing the people who work with her at the hub and on Saturdays she joins the team on pick-ups and routine inspections in a view to ensure customer satisfaction.

Joining her on a Saturday inspection ensured we had a feel of what she thinks about Wecyclers and as well getting feedback from customers. Mrs Jibrin an indigene of Kogi state has been working with Wecyclers for over a year however she has been into recycling for a longer period working with an organization that makes use of recyclable materials to produce new products. However Hajia thinks Wecyclers idea is novel and completely different and with wages far above the national average, she says staffs under her are a lot happier and the prospects of growth is enormous. In one year, Hajia says her team has been able to expand its reach to several communities and there are more in sight.



Mrs Katimi Jibrin weighs Jubril Aminu’s waste

Hajia and the team are picking up from a neighborhood that includes a regular subscriber who doubles as a Wecyclers staff; Jibril Aminu is a student and rounded off  his O/levels this July, Wecyclers has however given him an opportunity to earn from his waste first through the exchange of waste for value ” I go as far as three streets away every morning to pick up plastics so my points can increase” and as well earn from his skill, during school vacations, he works as a “recycle boy” riding one of the wecycles around streets for pickup of recyclables within the neighborhood.


When we go on vacation i come to my job at Wecyclers, and when we resume i go back to school

In less than a year of getting to know about Wecyclers, Jibril has redeemed his points for several items including gas cooker, toaster, cash rewards e.t.c noodles this excites him but what makes it a lot more fun for him is the opportunity to earn and have his holiday properly utilized working as a recycling boy and contributing to keep waste off  the streets. Jibril says he has become an “Apostle of Wecyclers” as he has told people around him about the initiative and more importantly displayed his rewards.

Jibril is resuming at the hub next month having finished his high school year but he is aiming high and would want to go to the university soon. “I am resuming at work so I can save a little to go further in school.” he adds.

Hajia and Jibril and other members of our team ensure our work goes on well contributing to the success we currently have and prospects of getting better at what we do.

July Editions

For Jummai, diligence and commitment breeds success

“I’ve come to learn that there’s no shame in working with waste, they say if you want clean money you  have to get it from dirty”  says Jummai Sadiq, a member of the Wecyclers sorting team. Born and raised in Lagos, Jummai speaks four Nigerian languages, studied up to O levels, and hopes to join a work and study program soon.

_DSC0297As a sorter at the Itire hub, one of the 3 operational hubs of Wecyclers, She is involved in post pick up activities but Jummai’s is not one to limit herself to sorting of the recyclable waste as she gets involved in almost all stages of the operation. On a typical Saturday she joins the pickup team visiting several communities in Lagos and ensuring the team gets the right recyclables picked up. “We always let them know we want the best of PET” she says.  Her knowledge of four Nigerian languages makes her an asset like other teammates as this also helps the team interact well with subscribers who are from diverse ethnic groups.

On Wecyclers operation, “Wecyclers has helped a lot in Lagos, it’s like doing a cleanup/sanitation everyday, picking up waste, cleaning the environment and getting people within their communities to know there’s also value in the waste”. I think the government also has a role to play in our operation, we can do better as an organization and cover more locations in Lagos. The response around the areas we currently cover is impressive and that means we can make more impact but of course we need more funding, partnerships from both the government and the private sector. We have been able to create awareness with the little team we have and I tell my colleagues we need to put in more effort as a team.


“I’ve come to learn that there’s no shame in working with waste, they say if you want clean money you  have to get it from dirty”  


Jummai became friends with a Wecyclers teammate, who explained to her ab_DSC0317out the organization and let her know when the opportunity arose. Jummai joined the Wecyclers team in 2015 and has been instrumental in the processing/sorting of recyclable waste. “When I joined, one of my regular tasks was sorting the recyclables because they are usually mixed up by our customers/ subscribers, we separate the PPE, PET, cans e.t.c  getting them ready for the crushers and bailers”. It was initially a scary task as it involved handling wastes she recalls.


One year on, Jummai has achieved a lot during her time at Wecyclers. “I am proud to have trained most of the sorting staff we have today,” she beams. “I’ve also had to supervise other sorters and other levels of operation when the need arises” She says.

Jummai’s diligence and work ethic has helped her rise up the ranks in a short while. She sometimes supervises a team of 20 staff within the sorting section of the processing hub.

Every morning, Jummai gets to work by 7:30 am and begins with a line tour of the Hub. By 8:00am, when the rest of the crew arrives, it is time to look through the tasks for the day. Together, the team identifies tasks that they have accomplished, those that are pending, and those they aim to undertake during the day. She says.

_DSC0413Jummai attributes her success to diligence, commitment, and a good working relationship with her supervisor, the team and also what she has learnt here. “I have learnt how to manage things and people since I came in contact with Wecyclers and to value what I have”. What we do here makes you value waste more and appreciate She adds.

When it comes to her personal life/career, Jummai is aiming higher “I am optimistic about furthering my education, with a stable job and good benefits, I can save up and  work alongside schooling” she smiles.

Jummai, is our Wecyclers person of the month!

July Editions

Recycling Facts and Trivias

This day and age, there are a lot of people out there that take part in recycling. Some do it because they want to, and others do it because they are pushed to do so. Either way, recycling can really make a difference in the environment and it is something that more and more people should begin to do. Here are a few facts about recycling that you may not have known before.

Below are 40 facts about Recycling
Fact 1: Recycling is a process to create new items from old and used materials. This helps in reducing energy and potentially useful materials from being wasted.
Fact 2: Recycling is a part of waste disposal hierarchy – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Fact 3: Aluminium cans can actually be recycled and put back onto the shelf at your local grocery store in just about 2 months.
Fact 4: Aluminium cans are probably the most recycled item, at least in the United States. While this is true, you can also recycle other forms of aluminium as well.
Fact 5: Recycling an aluminium can help to save a great deal of energy, in fact, enough to run your home television for about three hours!
Fact 6: Most beverage cans are made up of aluminium, even though there are other products that go into it as well.
Fact 7: If you throw away your aluminium cans, they can stay in that can form for up to 500 years or more- so recycling is the way to go.
Fact 8: Variety of raw materials including paper, plastic, metal, glass, electronics and textiles can be recycled.
Fact 9: You can recycle aluminium over and over again, and there is really no limit to it.
Fact 10: There are over 80 billion aluminium cans used each and every year around the world.
Fact 11: Aluminium used to be more valuable than gold, many years ago.
Fact 12: Half a million trees have to be cut down just to produce the Sunday newspapers each week.
Fact 13: Recycling a single days worth of the New York Times could save 75,000 trees or more.
Fact 14: Recycling helps to conserve our natural resources like coal, oil and gas.
Fact 15: If we recycled all newspapers, we could save over 250 million trees each and every year.
Fact 16: Most people in America all use at least seven trees each year, through wood, paper and other types of products that use trees. That is over 2 trillion trees throughout the course of the year when you think about it.
Fact 17: Each American uses around 680 pounds of paper each year, and most people just throw it away instead of recycling it for further use.
Fact 18: 2000 pounds of recycled paper can actually help to save 17 trees, over 350 gallons of oil, and a lot of landfill space. That also means less air pollution!
Fact 19: Recycling helps to conserve energy and as a result less greenhouse gases are emitted.
Fact 20: Americans will use over 2 and a half million plastic bottles every thirty minutes, and most of them are simply thrown away rather than recycled.
Fact 21: Plastic bags that are thrown into the ocean kill over a million sea creatures a year.
Fact 22: Over 60% of the trash that ends in dustbin could be recycled.
Fact 23: Over 25 trillion Styrofoam coffee cups are thrown away each year, just by Americans!
Fact 24: Glass jars can be recycled, but there are many that are just thrown away.
Fact 25: 24 trees are cut down to make 1 ton of newspaper.
Fact 26: Recycling helps to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfills and as a result less harmful emissions like methane gas are released into the earth’s atmosphere.
Fact 27: A modern glass bottle could take over 4000 years to actually decompose, and if it is in the landfill then it will probably take even longer than that.
Fact 28: Most dumps are made up of a third of packaging materials that could be recycled.
Fact 29: Recycled paper produces approximately 70% less air pollution than if it was made from raw materials.
Fact 30: Each year, there are organic garbage thrown out that could be composted and recycled to use for fertilizer for the ground rather than pollutants.
Fact 31: Glass is 100% recyclable and can be used again and again. Glass recycling is separated into colors because glass retains its color even after recycling.
Fact 32: The most thrown away products in American include diapers, pens, razor blades, tires and aluminium- all of which can be used to be recycled into other products.
Fact 33: Due to the fact that people aren’t recycling as much as they should, the rainforests are actually be cut down by about 100 acres a minute.
Fact 34: Most people produce 4.4 pounds of trash per day that results in about 1.5 tons of solid waste per year.
Fact 35: Plastic bags and garbage that are thrown into the ocean have devastating effect on sea animals.
Fact 36: Approximately 1 billion trees worth of paper are thrown in US every year.
Fact 37: The amount of wood and paper that are thrown each year is enough to heat 50,000,000 homes for 20 years.
Fact 38: Recycling one ton of plastic can save up to 1,000–2,000 gallons of gasoline.
Fact 39: Recycling one glass bottle saves enough energy to power a 100-watt bulb for four hours.
Fact 40: One drip one second from a leaky faucet wastes 540 gallons of water a year.

As you can see, there is a lot of great information out there about recycling. If you have never considered recycling, or have thought about it and thought that it would really not be worth your while, you may want to think again. It can actually help to save you money in the long run, but more importantly it is great for the environment. It doesn’t take too much extra effort on your part, and if more people would do it then the world would be a much cleaner place to be.


What is Energy?

July Editions

The Swedish Recycling Revolution


With its ongoing recycling revolution, less than one per cent of Sweden’s household waste ends up in a rubbish dump. The rest is recycled in different ways.

Towards zero waste

Wouldn’t it be great if no household waste was wasted? If each and every item of refuse was turned into something else – new products, raw materials, gas or at least heat?

Sweden is almost there. More than 99 per cent of all household waste is recycled in one way or another. This means that the country has gone through something of a recycling revolution in the last decades, considering that only 38 per cent of household waste was recycled in 1975 (see chart).

Today, recycling stations are as a rule no more than 300 metres from any residential area. Most Swedes separate all recyclable waste in their homes and deposit it in special containers in their block of flats or drop it off at a recycling station. Few other nations deposit less in rubbish dumps.

Stepping up recycling

Weine Wiqvist, CEO of the Swedish Waste Management and Recycling Association (Avfall Sverige), still thinks Swedes can do more, considering that about half of all household waste is burnt, that is, turned into energy. He explains that reusing materials or products means using less energy to create a product, than burning one and making another from scratch.

‘We are trying to “move up the refuse ladder”, as we say, from burning to material recycling, by promoting recycling and working with authorities’, he says.

Meanwhile, Swedish households keep separating their newspapers, plastic, metal, glass, electric appliances, light bulbs and batteries. Many municipalities also encourage consumers to separate food waste. And all of this is reused, recycled or composted.

Newspapers are turned into paper mass, bottles are reused or melted into new items, plastic containers become plastic raw material; food is composted and becomes soil or biogas through a complex chemical process. Rubbish trucks are often run on recycled electricity or biogas. Wasted water is purified to the extent of being potable. Special rubbish trucks go around cities and pick up electronics and hazardous waste such as chemicals. Pharmacists accept leftover medicine. Swedes take their larger waste, such as a used TV or broken furniture, to recycling centres on the outskirts of the cities.

Waste to energy

Let’s take a closer look at the 50 per cent of the household waste that is burnt to produce energy at incineration plants. Waste is a relatively cheap fuel and Sweden has, over time, developed a large capacity and skill in efficient and profitable waste treatment. Sweden even imports 700,000 tonnes of waste from other countries.

The remaining ashes constitute 15 per cent of the weight before burning. From the ashes, metals are separated and recycled, and the rest, such as porcelain and tile, which do not burn, is sifted to extract gravel that is used in road construction. About one per cent still remains and is deposited in rubbish dumps.

The smoke from incineration plants consists of 99.9 per cent non-toxic carbon dioxide and water, but is still filtered through dry filters and water. The dry filters are deposited. The sludge from the dirty filter water is used to refill abandoned mines.

In Sweden, burning waste to produce energy is uncontroversial, but in other countries – like the US – it is a much debated topic.

Doing better

Hans Wrådhe heads the section for waste and chemicals at the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (Naturvårdsverket) and considers proposing a higher levy on waste collection.

‘That would increase everybody’s awareness of the problem’, he says.

Together with government agencies and corporations, Wrådhe has developed an action plan for waste prevention, including how to encourage producers to make products that last longer. The agency also considers proposing a tax deduction for some repairs.

‘Government-sponsored ads on how to avoid food waste might also help’, he says. ‘And less toxic substances used in production would mean fewer products that require expensive treatment.’

On TV, sandwiched between other commercials, the Pantamera videos try to encourage people to return used bottles to grocery stores – ‘panta mera’ means recycle more. Well-known artists record songs substituting ‘panta mera’ for ‘Guantanamera’ in the classic song.

See for yourself: Pantamera videos

In this stationary vacuum system, users throw their waste into ordinary inlets, where the bags are stored temporarily. All full inlets are then emptied at regular intervals through a network of underground pipes.

Companies joining the effort

Some Swedish companies have voluntarily joined in the struggle. For example, H&M has begun accepting used clothing from customers in exchange for rebate coupons in an initiative called Garment Collecting.

The Optibag company has developed a machine that can separate coloured waste bags from each other. People throw food in a green bag, paper in a red one, and glass or metal in another. Once at the recycling plant, Optibag sorts the bags automatically. This way, waste sorting stations could be eliminated.

The southern Swedish city of Helsingborg even fitted public waste bins with loudspeakers playing pleasant music – all in the name of recycling.

Back to Swedish Waste Management and Recycling Association CEO Wiqvist, who thinks perfection in recycling is possible, an idea worth striving for.

‘“Zero waste” – that is our slogan’, he says. ‘We would prefer less waste being generated, and that all the waste that is generated is recycled in some way. Perfection may never happen, but it certainly is a fascinating idea.’