Nigeria is Africa’s most populated country with over 170 million people living there. It’s capital, Lagos, is one of the most densely populated capitals on earth, home to over 5 million people. That’s a lot of recycling, as one University of Northampton student found out when he launched his own WEEE social enterprise in the country.

Lagos is one of the world’s fastest growing cities. In recent years the city has seen an influx in second hand electronics, as the demand for electrical goods rises in the country.

Much of this WEEE was being imported, but due to its second hand nature huge amounts of it were deemed totally unusable. As a result, many Nigerians simply burnt their old WEEE products creating huge bonfires of electrical goods, which produce harmful toxins that poison both the atmosphere and leak mercury into Nigeria’s drinking water.

The Nigerian government has done its best to ban imports of unusable WEEE and there has also been a concerted effort here in the UK to prevent exports of dodgy equipment.

However, the problem still exists. The question is, what to do with all the unusable WEEE? This is the dilemma that faced University of Northampton Business Entrepreneurship student Ben Thomson, who has set up an organisation called Green Cycle in a bid to solve the problem of waste WEEE management in Lagos.

In collaboration with OIPA (Orile Iganmu Progressive Association) in Nigeria, Ben and his partners George Richards and Chris Richardson are hoping to set up a facility within the country to process used WEEE products. At the same time, they are hoping to change the attitudes of ordinary Nigerians towards recycling, to ensure that electrical items are disposed of in the correct manner.

Mr Thomson told, “changing attitudes towards waste in Nigeria is vital because some people don’t understand what recycling is out there.”

“One of the main things we are doing at the moment is working with the community.”

The guys at Green Cycle have received support from the UK in the form of Professor of Waste Margaret Bates. Ben said, “We have the contracts to make things happen and Margaret is offering a great opinion on how things work out there.”

It’s hoped that through education and workshops, the company will be able to alert ordinary Nigerians to the dangers of burning their WEEE products. The country’s attitude to recycling has been, at best, confused and certainly there is a general lack of understanding about what recycling is. Ben shared stories of people actually setting fire to piles of electrics in front of collection teams, because they didn’t trust them to take it away.

Through partnership with OIPA, Green Cycle are eager to change the attitudes of those living in Lagos. OIPA have met with success in the country, having trained over 1,500 young people in computing and literacy.

The future is definitely looking green for Nigeria, and Ben and his colleagues are certainly brimming with confidence. He told that the puzzle was starting to come together.

“At the moment George is in Lagos attempting to secure licenses, and we are in the process of finding the finances and getting ready to pilot the collection scheme. We have a model we think is going to work, and we hope to have it up and running by 2015.”

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