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Thriving plastic bottles scavenging

By Mary Agidi

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At the sixth session of the UN Environment Assembly UNEA-6, held in March 2024, the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA), in collaboration with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), released a report assessing global waste management and analyzing data concerning municipal solid waste management worldwide.

At the global forum, scientists at the Sixth Session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-6) called on the world to start turning rubbish into wealth.

According to the Executive Director at UNEP, Inger Andersen , “Waste generation is intrinsically tied to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and many fast-growing economies are struggling under the burden of rapid waste growth”.

Prior to the discovery of turning wastes to wealth through recycling, items like plastic bottles were disposed indiscriminately across the streets, causing serious environmental pollution.

PET bottles and other items like nylons were being dumped inside gutters, water-ways, thereby causing erosion obstruction, which usually wreak havoc during the rainy season.

In Ondo State, Akure the state capital which is supposed to be an urban area occupied by the educated and the elites, was not excluded in this mess of environmental pollution.

Meanwhile, the coming of a private waste management control organisation to Ondo State in 2018 paved way for plastic bottles recycling idea.

The ZL Global Alliance introduced the waste to wealth policy in its services, by gathering and purchasing used plastic bottles, broken plastic buckets, and recycling them for industrial materials.

“Our secondary job is to create wealth out of our waste and we have a slogan in our company- No waste is to be wasted; waste is raw material. So, under our waste-to-wealth programme, we package waste as raw material that can be turned into new products. We have one centre in Akure for that and we are building new ones in Owo and Ondo town.

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 “What we will be doing there is to separate plastic from the waste, soft and hard. The hard plastic will be crunched, palletized and moulded into new products.

The bucket plastic, which is plastic from sachet water and nylon, will be crunched, palletize and then made into smaller nylon.

“We usually do that for poverty alleviation where we work with widows and women in the villages”, says Abiola Basorun, MD ZL Global.

The information of recycling plastic bottles and creating wealth from it, gave rise to scavengers within the Akure metropolis.

 It became a side hustle for the sustenance of some individuals who depend on daily income to survive.

For some years now, residents would wake up to see strange faces scooping plastic bottles from their dustbins outside their compounds.

Meanwhile, the resuscitation of Ondo State Environmental Protection Agency, OSEPA in 2022, further helped to save gutters and canals in Akure from being blocked with PET bottles.

 In 2023, in its bid to keep the environment clean, OSEPA sets up Plastic Waste Collectors to help in collecting plastic bottles from the general public and this development gave rise to scavengers due to the promise attached, that the waste would be paid for.

In Ondo State, 2022-2023 witnessed an upsurge of individuals venturing into the business. Individually- owned waste companies like WastePay, Scrapays, emerged with offline and online advertisements inviting residents to bring their used plastic bottles for sales.

On how much a scavenger can make on a bag full of plastic bottles; a buyer of the items, Mrs. Olotu told The Hope that she buys a dozen of 75cl for fifty naira (N50) from scavengers.

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Meanwhile, an agent of Scrapays company who disclosed that the company was into collection of different wastes and scraps, including metal, plastic plumbing pipes; hinted that they do buy pet bottles for N36.89 per kilogram, while plastic goes for N46.40 per kilogram.

Another buyer, Mrs Abiola said a bag of beans full of plastic bottles cost N1,500 with their sales depot in Isinkan.

Research by The Hope revealed that plastic bottles scavenging business has been thriving in Lagos state for years. Many companies that are into it have been in existence in Lagos State since 2015. The materials are converted into flakes and pellets for industrial use.

The buyers of the items in Akure were seen inscribing their phone contacts on strategic locations within Akure, inviting scavengers to bring their gathered items for purchase.

Investigation by The Hope, however, revealed that the business patronage is low recently due to the reorganisation in the state waste management’s system.

An officer in charge of pollution at the OSEPA, who refrained from speaking with The Hope on official ground, affirmed that within two years of establishment of the Agency, it had done a lot in terms of plastic collection and recycling.

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