How Ajegunle Community Recycling Hub is keeping Lagos community clean

 How Ajegunle Community Recycling Hub is keeping Lagos community clean

Ajegunle, also known as AJ City, is a prominent  settlement in Lagos State and is identified as a significant slum due to its environment, littered with shanty houses, gutters, bad roads, refuse dumps, and lagging in basic social amenities. The city houses mostly low-income earners who often make their living from trading and menial jobs. 

However, the narratives of the Ajegunle environment could be changing due to the presence of the first ever recycling hub established in the city, not only to empower residents economically but to salvage the  polluted environs of the city.

The Ajegunle Community Recycling Hub, situated at 33 Prince Tajedeen Road, Off Okun-Owa, Tolu Community, Ajeromi-Ifelodun Local Government, is an initiative of Circularity Africa Limited, founded by Taiwo Adewole and Seunfunmi Ogungbure. Together with the support of the Lagos  Waste Management Authority (LAWMA),  the CAF established the first and only recycling hub in Ajegunle on November 24, 2023, and currently runs a programme titled ‘’Trash for Cash,” which is a new way to Sustainable Community Waste Management and Economic Empowerment. 

The ‘Trash for Cash’ programme requires residents in Ajegunle to bring used PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles, cartoons, pure water sachets, beverage cans, and textile waste in exchange for money. Waste collections and sorting, that is differentiating PET from the cartoons, beverage/aluminum cans, pure water nylons, etc., are the only activities that are done in the recycling hub at the moment.

The cofounder, Seunfunmi Ogunbure, during his presentation to a team of Young Media for Climate Justice trainees under the auspices of the International Climate Change Development Initiative (ICCDI) on January 11, reverberated the goal of CAF.

“The hope is that we are building a future where plastic and waste are a different narrative compared to what it is today, where waste is not waste but is an instrument to build a sustainable future. When people are able to understand their steward’s responsibility towards waste, it is easy for us to achieve that future. This recycling hub is still under construction; it is not finished, but with it, we have been able to project a message. 

If you look to our left, there is the ocean, which is the Tincan Island Port in Lagos, and this community serves as a channel through which plastic waste and whatever goes out of this community goes into the Atlantic Ocean. So we have a stewardship responsibility towards the ocean and the  community”, said Ogunbure. 

Ogunbure also highlighted that the location of the recycling hub is very strategic and secures the fishing activities that take place within the community because by collecting waste that fills up the ocean, the fish have more longevity.

He narrated, “This community is largely a fishing community with many smoking pots. There are many fishermen and fisherwomen who make a living out of fishing. So imagine that by 2050, the ocean will be so polluted that these fishermen will not be able to find fish. What is going to happen to their livelihood? So this is why we feel our position is very strategic. With our presence, this community will be able to steward their own environment, the ocean, and ensure no plastic or other form of waste gets into the ocean through the initiative we are running.”

He also added that the CAF partners with about forty communities, which presents them with the opportunity to impact the knowledge of recycling  to  the public school pupils because the children are the ones to change the narratives in the future.

Bolanle Oluwa, the manager of the recycling hub, which has been around for less than three months since its inception in the bubbling city, narrated that aside from its economic value, the hub has also had an environmental impact. According to her, ‘’ So far, so good. Since the commission of this place, 35 percent of the area of Ajegunle has been clean. You can never see any PET lying down, especially on this street. Look around. 

This particular street (referring to the street in which the hub is situated) used to be a mess; even the gutters were filled with PETs, nylons, etc., but now they are cleaner. It’s the kind of job I encourage people to go into. Ajegunle is going to be cleaner in the next three to four years.“

Oluwa revealed that so far, the hub has been able to collect approximately 3 tonnes of PET, 214 kg of carton waste, 64kg of beverage or aluminum cans, and 344 kg of sachet water waste. She exposed that the response of the residents has been encouraging, especially children and elderly women.

‘’A  lot of people have been bringing  their waste to turn into wealth. You could see the eagerness in them that if you brought your waste, you would receive cash. Both the children, the adults, and the elderly are involved. We do a lot to encourage them, like in the month of December, which was last year, we provided toiletries for them, and it encouraged them to pick more and keep the environment. Our major customers here are children between 7 and 16 years old and elderly women, either mothers or grandmothers. 

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They are so eager to make money out of waste, especially pure water sachets, because that is what they can easily get access to because that is what they drink more of here. It is easier for them to pick up pure water nylon on the gutters and streets. We give them purple nylon bags to collect the sachet waste. On the other hand, the youths bring more PET and cartons, mostly from their offices, party hubs, or event centers,” said Oluwa.

However, Oluwa pinpointed that changing the mindset of the residents about the wealth in waste is still challenging, as most residents play down the amount of money that can be generated from dropping off waste at the hub. She recounted that the highest wage paid to a resident is a sum of seven thousand five hundred naira because the individual allowed the money to pile up.

“In Ajegunle, they still don’t believe they can make money from waste. Getting the PET is not the challenge but the mindset of the people, because most residents feel the pay is paltry, but we still encourage them to bring and use the money to sort out their needs, such as school fees and electricity bills. Some of them like instant pay to be able to buy lunch, but some allow the money to accumulate, but we encourage them to accumulate the money in order for the money to have more value. We have a card for registration, and the highest pay so far we have paid a customer is seven thousand, five hundred Naira (N7,500); other high sums were two thousand, six hundred Naira (2600).

Oluwa revealed that one Haija, by the name of Rahidat Adedipe, is the fastest sorter in the hub. Oluwa described her as like a cheetah around them; “she can weigh close to 100kg a day. We have 11 of the sorters from LAWMA. They come here after their sanitation work in the streets of Lagos. The average a sorter can do is like 84.100kg per day, and we pay them twenty-five Naira (N25) for 1 kg. We paid them every two weeks last year, but we pay them weekly this year because they need the cash to attend to urgent needs”, said Oluwa.

Oluwa mentioned that she also picks up waste in her neighbourhood at parties in order to make wealth out of waste and inspire younger ones.

Meanwhile, Feyimi Funmilayo, the admin manager of the hub, revealed the amount pegged to each waste. According to her, 1 kg of pure water sachet, PET bottle, and cartoon are bought for eighty Naira (N80) each, while 1 kg of beverage or aluminum cans goes for two hundred and fifty Naira (N250). She added that part of their responsibility includes sensitizing the residents (door to door) to drop off their waste at the recycling hub.

 Words from Rashidat Adedipe, the fastest sorter

“I come here every day to sort the plastics, except on Sundays. I collect about one thousand five hundred Naira (N1500), one thousand two hundred Naira (N1200), or more, and I use it to buy soap and do many things. The money helps me. I work at the LAWMA office before coming here, and I close by 5 p.m. My son helps me (pointing at her son, who was busy sorting the PET). He is yet to resume school and before the Christmas holiday; he assisted me, and when school is not in session, he comes as  well”, narrated Adedipe.

By Genevieve Aningo 

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