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RecyclePoints- Incentivizing Waste Collection

With large human populations come huge amounts of waste- it’s a marker of human presence. Whether it’s generated from industrial processes or yielded as the remnant from consumption, waste plays a big part in the physical human experience. For some people, the experience with waste is quite unpleasant- especially when it litters every other space they set their foot on.

Lagos, like many other Nigerian cities, struggles to deal with the volume of solid waste generated by its inhabitants. On a daily basis, the city churns out thousands of tonnes of waste. Some of it is recycled, but the majority isn’t. Evidence of a waste management efficiency gap is seen in the heaps of refuse that appear along the streets and major highways on a regular basis, and in drainages clogged with ugly assortments of wraps, bags and bottles. These aren’t part of the picture that a city emerging as Africa’s biggest commercial hub wants to portray to the world.

RecyclePoints was started with the aim of contributing a sustainable solution to Lagos’s (and eventually, Nigeria’s) waste management problems. Founded in 2012, RecyclePoints is a waste recycling venture that takes a novel approach to waste collection and recycling. It collects recyclables from households and in turn awards them with points which they can use to obtain household items.

Mazi and Chioma Ukonu, founders of RecyclePoints, say they got into waste recycling after they spotted a gap in the waste management space that wasn’t being filled. They got the idea for RecyclePoints while on vacation abroad; they had seen the waste management systems in the places they had traveled to, and had noted the differences between the efficient waste collection they had witnessed during their travels, and what obtained back in Lagos. The lessons they learned from those trips led them to found RecyclePoints.

How RecyclePoints Works

RecyclePoints registers homes for its waste collection and rewards scheme. Registration can be done online, by an admin officer, or by a material handler on the field. RecyclePoints collects recyclable items such as pure water sachets, plastic bottles, used beverage cans, glass bottles, old newspapers, and brown corrugated cartons, from homes that have registered with it. Points are awarded to subscribers based on the quantity of waste collected each week; these points could be used to purchase household items sold at RecyclePoints’ iRecycle store.

RecyclePoints’ approach might be just one of several strategies that could be employed to solve a seemingly ever present problem with waste in Nigeria. But it’s a creative one, and a useful addition to ongoing efforts to rescue Lagos and other cities from being swallowed up in mountains of waste.

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Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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