Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola developed the idea for Wecyclers while she was a student in the US. She wanted to address two major challenges of waste management and unemployment by offering recycling services to low/middle-income households. Once she returned to Nigeria, Wecyclers Nigeria Limited was born.
Wecyclers is now an award-winning company and as its Co-Founder and CEO, Bilikiss’ work is well recognised. She is a Carroll Wilson Fellow, an Echoing Green Fellow and a 2013 recipient of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards. She is also a member of the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, founded by the Lagos state government.
SLA contributor Olayemi Olajide recently caught up with Bilikiss to find out more about her journey…..
Kindly tell us about Wecyclers? What made you return to Nigeria to start this company?
Wecyclers is an award-winning company that is committed to improving recycling in Nigeria. We address the challenge of waste management and unemployment by offering sustainable and convenient recycling services to low/middle-income households and businesses while creating grassroots jobs and economic partnerships.
The idea for Wecyclers was developed while I was in the US as a student at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Following a five-year career as a corporate software engineer at IBM. I was assigned to a study project to help people at the bottom of the pyramid (people living on less than $2 a day). I decided to work on waste with a focus on its uses, collection, and processing.
After the project was completed, we (the project team) did some research and saw the huge potential in the waste recycling sector in Nigeria. Especially among the manufacturing plants who are hungry for a cheaper and easily available source of raw materials due to local and foreign demand for end products. I then decided to move the idea forward and Wecyclers was born.
What do you enjoy the most about doing business in Nigeria?
I like that my work makes me live a life of purpose and that it is having a positive effect on my country and my children. Wecyclers turns waste into wealth and supplements the income of thousands of households. Since August 2012, Wecyclers has registered over 15,000 households for our collection service in 3 Lagos neighborhoods, collected over 3,000 metric tons of recyclable materials, created over 100 jobs and rewarded our subscribers with over $75,000 worth of gifts and cash prizes.
Since August 2012, Wecyclers has registered over 15,000 households for our collection service in three Lagos neighborhoods, collected over 3,000 metric tons of recyclable materials, created over 100 jobs and rewarded our subscribers with over $75,000 worth of gifts and cash prizes.@wecyclers @realwecyclers @bilikiss are demonstrating that waste can be a source of wealth Click To Tweet
How has your experience working and living outside the continent helped you shape Wecyclers into what it is today?
I think my educational experiences and starting my career as a software engineer in the United States provided me the toolkit with which to solve the kind of large-scale problems we are tackling at Wecyclers. It also provided opportunities to build an international network that has helped to guide and support our work.
It also provided opportunities to build an international network that has helped to guide and support our work.@bilikiss @wecyclers We have benefited greatly from the Lagos State Government’s progressiveness Click To Tweet
How has your partnership with Lagos State Government and other organizations contributed to building Wecyclers? Can you tell us names of organizations you have partnered with?
Our partnerships with Lagos State Government and organizations has been a critical part of Wecyclers’ development. We have benefitted greatly from the Lagos State Government’s progressiveness and openness to working with organizations that provide solutions to Lagosians’ challenges.
Wecyclers recently received a grant from the Lagos State Government to expand our collection and processing services into two new local government areas, create 120 jobs and 8 micro enterprises and reach an addition 68,000 Lagosians. Our partners also include FCMB, DHL, Unilever, Oracle, the Nigerian Bottling Company, MIT Sloan School of Management, and others listed on our webpage.
Our partnerships have helped to improve our visibility, enabled large-scale programs like clean-up days, and enhanced our management operations.
What are the constant challenges you face running Wecyclers? What’s next for Wecyclers?
A major challenge is funding. We are a social enterprise, so we are more focused on having a positive impact on communities than generating profit. We are always looking for companies and foundations that are willing to support our efforts. Another constant challenge has been ensuring the supply of electricity to our hubs, which is essential for processing the recycled material we collect.
We also have to deal with the negative perception that some people have of working in waste recycling as a dirty job. We are demonstrating that waste can be a source of wealth and that handling it well is good for our communities and the environment.
Our plan is to continue expanding our operations and reach, encourage more communities to get involved in recycling. My plan is for Wecyclers to operate all across Nigeria and my long-term goal is to be the largest recycling company in Africa.Bilikiss Adebiyi Abiola – My long-term goal is to be the largest recycling company in Africa. Click To Tweet
5 things you do to relax when you are not working.
Listen to music, work out, cook, travel and read books.
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