SPOTLIGHT: Amidu, the Nigerian revamping circular economy space with PlastiBuild

 SPOTLIGHT: Amidu, the Nigerian revamping circular economy space with PlastiBuild

Amidu grew up in Lagos, and one thing that he constantly witnessed was flooding, mostly a direct effect of drainages clogged with plastic waste. This put a burden on him that led to a waste-to-wealth initiative.

He has been ridiculed and even lost the love of his life because a prestigious graduate like him should not be picking waste, but that only strengthened his determination.

Young Amidu’s passion for sustainability via the circular economy has positioned him as an important stakeholder in Lagos State. He is helping the government make decisions, training other young people, and growing the sustainability market through PlastiBuild.

In this interview with CrispNG, Amidu Mohammed Dabban speaks about his passion for sustainability, impacts, challenges, and projects.

Can we meet you?


Amidu: My name is Amidu Mohammed. I’m the founder and creative director of PlastiBuild Creative Solutions Limited. We are a climate-conscious social enterprise that leverages innovative upcycling technologies to bridge the gap in sustainable products by transforming waste into functional items. We transform waste like tires, plastic, fabric, wood waste, broken mirrors, and more into functional products such as home interior decoration materials, footwear (eco-footwear), green furniture, green plastic, plastic bricks, and much more. Essentially, we are transforming waste into wealth.

Can you share the story behind PlastiBuild Creative Solutions and how your enterprise contributes to addressing plastic waste challenges in Nigeria?

Amidu: PlastiBuild Creative Solutions is a startup that I began while I was an undergraduate at Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto. I live in Lagos, but I studied up north, so I’ve always experienced the waste crisis we have in Lagos firsthand.

As a child, I woke up to a smoky environment, which could be a result of people burning refuse, ‘area boys’ burning tires to send a message of impending violence, an unfortunate criminal being lynched, or possibly some women burning waste from their houses because they couldn’t afford to pay waste management authorities like Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA). This made the environment unconducive and even life-threatening for those with breathing-related illnesses or could trigger those health conditions.

For some of my friends who had asthma, whenever it was smoky it was always a terrible experience for them, and even for those of us who didn’t have that condition, having to inhale a lot of smoke was a good experience, as the emissions were too much making the environment unconducive and apart from that, seeing waste littered everywhere clogged the drainages and whenever it rained, my streets transform into a river and that crippled economic activities until the street is dried again.

So, I discovered that it was such a mess, which the government is trying to solve, but they can’t do everything. I felt there should be a way around this problem. We should be able to transform some of this waste into useful products.

When I started, I faced a lot of repulsion from family and community members because, as a graduate of chemistry, they didn’t see any sense in working with waste. They had this mindset that working with waste is demeaning. They thought I was bringing myself down according to their perception of waste management.

I lost my girlfriend because she saw waste as a dirty thing to work with. I asked her to choose me or leave because I wasn’t going to abandon waste management. She left, and that’s when I realised that my passion for waste management is strong.

Could you walk us through the process of converting plastic waste into useful building materials, and what sets your approach apart from others in the industry?


Amidu: What we do at PlastiBuild Creative Solutions is convert tires and fabric waste into functional footwear. We do this by collaborating with local artisans, such as shoemakers and cobblers. In the beginning, I reached out to them requesting footwear, but this time, something different and unique made out of tires. I asked them to show me the process of making footwear, and we looked at alternatives. After overcoming the hurdles, we were able to come up with footwear made from waste materials, specifically tires and fabric.

The furniture also followed the same process. I went to furniture makers and requested furniture made from tires. They initially thought I didn’t know what I was talking about. At that point, they were not interested, so I decided to try it out myself.

My first attempt at turning tires into furniture was a good one. I was able to visualize my idea, although not perfectly. They then understood what I was talking about and decided to join me in making it better. We were able to get a near-perfect product that communicated the concept of working with waste. That’s essentially what we leverage at PlastiBuild to create our products.

We engage in collaborative partnerships with local artisans, craftsmen, and craftswomen; it’s more like a community coming together to design, with one person leading the process. We also work on plastic bricks, but that is not our core focus.

What impact has PlastiBuild Creative Solutions had on reducing the environmental impact of plastic waste in Nigeria, and what are your future goals for the company in this regard?

Amidu: In terms of impact, directly, we’ve been able to upcycle about 50 to 100 scrap tires. We’ve done a lot with plastics, converting them into bricks and interior decorations.

In terms of human capital development, we’ve trained a minimum of 1,000 young people in waste management and waste upcycling through the Rotary Youth Leadership Academy. Our impact has spread widely, as impact travels faster than light. We’ve made significant contributions, especially in building the circular economy ecosystem in Nigeria.

I’m a member of many professional stakeholder sessions where we’ve collaborated with the European Union, the Consulate of the Netherlands, Innovate UK, the Circular Economy Innovation Partnership, the Nigerian Climate Innovation Center, and other stakeholders to design roadmaps and strategies for creating a solid foundation for the circular economy in Nigeria. I’m also a member of the Nigerian National Plastic Action Partnership, affiliated with the local branch of the Global Plastic Action Partnership, where I’ve shared my experience, expertise, and knowledge in designing and implementing a workable roadmap to tackle plastic waste in Nigeria.

As a sustainability expert and global ambassador, how do you raise awareness about the importance of waste management and recycling within local communities and beyond?


Amidu: The message on the importance of waste management is passed through the communities and organizations I belong to, including Rotary International, which is one of the largest non-governmental organizations in the world.

Through the Rotary Youth Leadership Academy, an annual leadership training school, I share that knowledge with Rotaractors, who then pass it down to others. It’s more like a train-the-trainer session, and these trainers disseminate the information to their various communities across Nigeria.

The most effective way for me is through the conversations I have with young people every day. I’m happy that my work is inspiring many young people, especially females and youth. There is a growing interest among youths in the circular economy space; they reach out to me on LinkedIn and tell me how I inspire and motivate them to get involved in the circular economy. So, for me, that’s an amazing way to pass the message. You need to construct your impact strategy in a way that ignites someone’s passion and continues to spread like wildfire.

Can you discuss the challenges you faced in scaling PlastiBuild Creative Solutions, and how you overcame or are overcoming it?

Amidu: Currently, the obstacles keep coming. You overcome one, and another arises. At some point, I feel like giving up, but passion is what keeps me in this space. No one told me it would be easy, but I didn’t expect it to be this hard. It’s more difficult when you are in a field that requires constant development in terms of research and financial investment.

The challenges revolve around scaling up. We have been operating solo for the past three years, but now we have a scale-up model that is 101% feasible. However, we are facing financial challenges.

We want to establish waste upcycling hubs in local and marginalized communities that would engage women and youth from these communities, training them on how to use the waste around them to create functional products that meet the needs of sustainable consumers. This would enable them to leverage waste around them as a source of income.

The challenge is that most partners and investors want you to start something first before giving any support. Yes, you might think it’s feasible, but there needs to be proof. Nobody wants to take such a risk. If we can establish an upcycling hub in any local community, I believe we will get the partnerships we need, but raising the funds to establish even one of these hubs is where the challenge lies. We won’t be discouraged because we believe that one day, maybe not soon but not too late, we’ll secure the investment to implement our scale-up model. We’ll reinvent at some point if we discover that it’s not working, as adaptability is one of our core specialties.

We are seeking grants, partnerships, and support from the government, private sector, local communities, and traditional institutions to achieve our aim. We are optimistic that our efforts will pave the way for success someday.

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How do you collaborate with local communities, governments, and other stakeholders to promote the adoption of sustainable building practices?

Amidu Mohammed

Amidu: It’s important to understand that at PlastiBuild Creative Solutions, collaborative partnerships are a lifeline principle we hold very dear. We can’t do it alone because if you’re moving five steps forward and the community around you isn’t in tandem with what you’re doing, they’ll pull you ten steps backward, maybe directly or indirectly. So, we make sure whatever we’re doing aligns with what the government has in mind because the government is representative of the people.

Currently, we have a strong collaboration with the Lagos State Government through the Ministry of Environment and the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), as well as the Office of the Senior Special Adviser to the Governor on Climate Change and Circular Economy.

The governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s executive team is very much aware of the existence of PlastiBuild Solutions. They’ve interacted with our products and solutions and are very supportive of what we’re doing. We have secured grant support from the Lagos State Government, and they are considering introducing some of our products, like Ecofeet footwear to the social development program. They are looking at us producing it for underprivileged children in Makoko and Ajegunle communities.

Regarding the communities, as I said, when I started, my local community was not supportive, but when they saw the results, they understood and embraced it. The area boys even go as far as picking those tires for me in exchange for a sum of 100 or 200 naira, which they could have gotten through other means, like bullying or harassing residents. I was able to switch the mindset of people in the community, which made the work easier. So, collaboration with communities and the government, research institutions, and other stakeholders within the ecosystem is very key.

PlastiBuild Creative Solutions partners with the Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto Research and Development Department, and also with the University of Lagos, Akoka. The Innovation and Technology Management Office of the University of Lagos is a key collaborator that we work with closely.

We also work with the Circular Economy Innovation Partnership, led by Dr. Natalie Beinisch. We collaborate with Innovate UK and the Consulate of the Netherlands. We were together during the Circular Economy Strategy Week about two months ago, where we drafted solutions to the flip-flop waste generation problem in Lagos. The solution was right here with us, which was the Ecofeet footwear.

We also work with the Waste Management Society of Nigeria (WAMASON), the Lagos Recyclers Association, the Recyclers Association of Nigeria, and other stakeholders in the space, including international organizations. So, we don’t do it alone.

How do you address the economic viability and market demand for products derived from recycled plastic, and what strategies do you employ to stay competitive in the industry?

Amidu: One thing you need to know is that the rate of sustainable consumers, i.e., eco-conscious consumers, in Nigeria is still growing. Not everybody understands what eco-consumerism or sustainable choices are.

The global rate of people making sustainable choices is around 60%. Sixty percent of consumers want to use sustainable products and are willing to pay more for products that have less environmental impact. However, the number in Nigeria is around 4%, and it’s growing gradually at about 8.12% per annum.

So, we’re working very aggressively towards growing the market, which is why we are working with the Circular

Business Platform and the Circular Economy Innovation Partnership. We know that people want sustainable products, but the question is their availability. A platform that encourages accessibility needs to be created.

Talking about competition within the industry, it’s challenging for an entrepreneur, but for a space like the circular economy, it is even more challenging due to the need for research and adaptability.

Firstly, we don’t see our colleagues as competitors. Though economic competition exists, we see them as collaborative partners. We work with them closely to achieve our goals, which are towards a greener future and a more sustainable society. It’s better to go together so you can go far.

What role do you see youth entrepreneurship playing in driving sustainable development in Nigeria, and how does your involvement with the Naija Youth Entrepreneurship Network contribute to this vision?


Amidu: We have to understand that youths are the frontliners in this clamour for sustainable development in Nigeria, and the youth have the energy needed. We make up about 70% of the African population, and Nigeria is not an exception. That’s to tell you that if we want to get sustainable development going, then the youths have to be at the forefront, and that is why I’m at the forefront of our circular economy in Nigeria. You can’t talk about the circular economy in Lagos without mentioning Amidu Mohammed.

Being a global ambassador of the Nigerian Youth Entrepreneurship Network, I’m able to inspire all of this change within that network, which extends to the various teams and people around them. It’s a collaborative effort, but the youth are at the forefront of this collaborative effort.

Can you share any lessons learned or valuable insights gained from your experience as a founder and entrepreneur in the sustainability sector?

Amidu: As an entrepreneur, first, you need to have the passion. Yes, because when the going gets tough, only your passion will be able to keep you going. After this, build your creativity. There’s a popular saying that you should think outside the box, but I hold the opinion that you should think like there’s no box. By doing so, you can come up with different innovative ideas and solutions. The third thing is to be consistent. Don’t be in a hurry to abandon what you’re building because you are not seeing immediate results. You have to go one step at a time; it’s a learning process. You need to keep learning and keep up with trends so that when conversations are being made, you can contribute constructively.

As a leader in the circular economy space, what advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to start their own ventures focused on sustainability and environmental impact?


Amidu: The first thing you need to have is passion; don’t go after the money. The World Economic Forum says the sustainability sector is the second-largest growing economy worldwide after tech. You should not focus on profit because you might be disappointed in your first few months or years of going into the sector.

Also, explore the opportunities. You must not pick waste from the gutters; there are areas of technology and media entrepreneurship within the sustainability space that you can explore. The most important thing is passion and having a mindset of collaboration rather than competition because if you have a mindset of competition, you’ll get lost. When you see others who are succeeding and moving at a very fast pace, you’ll feel threatened without knowing their genesis.

What do you believe are the most pressing issues that need to be addressed in terms of environmental sustainability, and how do you envision PlastiBuild Creative Solutions contributing to these efforts in the long term?

Amidu: Looking at the broader context of the sustainability space, as I mentioned earlier, the World Economic Forum confirmed that sustainability is the second-largest growing economy in the world after tech. From current projections and statistics, it might overtake tech, which makes it very attractive, and a lot of people are seeing the business prospects and investing in it. However, it has created a challenge of deceptive eco-labeling; products that are not environmentally friendly are now packaged as though they are, thereby misleading consumers to make choices that don’t align with their values.

At Plastibuilds Creative Solutions, we tackle that problem through our platform, Ecomart, which we’re currently working on. Ecomart would offer trust because any product offered there would be sustainable, and that will be verifiable through our carbon footprint calculating system, which ensures that the carbon is minimal. We do this through collaborating with companies like Oxcarbon, which is a carbon credit data analytics company based in Nigeria, as well as Carbon Limit, a carbon credit and data consultancy company in Nigeria.

Can you share any future initiatives or projects that PlastiBuild Creative Solutions is working on to further innovate in the field of sustainable construction and waste management?


Amidu: We are looking at three key projects at PlastiBuild, and our milestone project is the scale-up model, i.e., the PlastiBuild Waste Upcycling Hubs project. This involves establishing waste upcycling hubs in local or marginalized communities across Nigeria, starting with Lagos State.

The idea is to establish these waste upcycling hubs in local communities to engage women and youths and empower them with waste upcycling skills. They will be trained to create sustainable products out of waste, and these products will be sold with an equivalent monetary value attached, which we will also buy.

Our second project is expanding our Ecofeet footwear product portfolio. We intend to introduce other product designs like sandals, sneakers, and boots to our current flip-flop design. We are working on the product development and design phase.

Lastly, we are building an online digital marketplace called Ecomart, a digital marketplace solely for sustainable products. Before products can be allowed on our platform, they must go through our carbon credits verification process to ensure they have minimal environmental impact.

The gap this aims to fill is that of distrust, deceptive ecolabeling, and greenwashing in the sustainability industry. Manufacturers and producers are now aware of the rule of sustainability, and how the demand for sustainable products is increasing among consumers, and are turning to greenwashing. Also, buyers in the online marketplace will be given carbon credits for every purchase they make, which will be converted into discount vouchers for more sustainable purchases.

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