Wecyclers – an innovative social enterprise in Lagos, Nigeria, that uses pedal-powered cargo bicycles to carry out its network of recycling services – has received interest from around the world on how its model could be replicated. Wecyclers not only provides people in low-income communities with a way of deriving value from their waste, but also helps build awareness about recycling and how it positively contributes to environmental protection and human health. It also helps avoid recyclable waste from entering landfills, as currently only 40% of waste in Lagos is collected and only 13% is recycled.
Wecyclers uses low-cost cargo bicycles that collect household recyclable waste in return for redeemable points. The points can be converted into cell phone minutes, basic food items, and household goods.
Wecyclers currently operates in Lagos – Africa’s largest city with a population of over 21 million, which is expected to grow significantly by 2030.
Close to 7,000 households in Lagos have already signed up to the Wecyclers collection service since it first piloted in August 2012 in the community of Itire and plans to expand to other cities in Nigeria are in the pipeline.
The business has huge potential to create jobs in the recycling sector and clean up cities where waste can affect human health and the environment.
Wecycler’s impact is growing – it has collected over 900 metric tons of recyclable materials, prevented the emission of over 992 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, created over 80 jobs and rewarded its subscribers with over $38,000 worth of gifts and cash prizes.
Lagos-born founder, Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola, was inspired during her MBA at MIT to start Wecyclers. Since its inception, it has received international recognition for its contribution to creating a sustainable business model that creates environmental, social and health benefits.
Wecyclers has received international recognition through various prestigious awards including the Sustainia Award in 2014, the 2014 Unilever Foundry Challenge, the 2013 Tech Awards, the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award, , Echoing Green Fellowship, MIT D-lab Scale-ups fellowship, MIT IDEAS Venture Grant, Yunus Challenge Prize at the MIT IDEAS Global Challenge Competition, and the Carroll Wilson Fellowship.
On being awarded the Sustainia Award in 2014, Arnold Schwartzenegger, Chair of the Sustainia Award Committee said: “I am very inspired by this year’s Sustainia Award winner, Wecyclers. They show us that communities can create local solutions to waste and recycling issues, which are not only more sustainable but also improve public health and create new jobs and businesses”.
Social enterprises like Wecyclers that provide multiple benefits for environment, health and jobs have large potential to be replicated and scaled – providing an innovative model for recycling and waste management in cities around the world.