Just a bit of context, after China banned importation of waste some years ago under their national sword program and yes they got the name right, it was a sword because it went through the heart and soul of the recycling and waste management sector from America to Europe to Africa just name it, the Chinese sword cut through everyone.
After some healing, local manufacturers within countries started springing up and countries in Europe began to focus on recycling especially plastics recycling. Now this is tricky, while the Chinese ban seems like the obvious reason, there may be other more interesting reasons like the cost of Recycled Plastics, recent commitments by multinationals to reduce the volume of virgin materials in their products, the list goes on.
Back to the matter, why so much demand? Most of the recycling of PET happening in Nigeria focuses on processing post-consumer PET into flakes and exporting to companies, mostly in Europe. And I actually find this disturbing because there are no actual investments in the sector.
Yes, Nigeria generates a lot of waste and high-quality waste at that, since most of our plastics are from virgin resins.
Let’s do some calculations; according to the World Bank–What a Waste Report, every person in low-middle income countries such as ours generates approximately 0.8kg of waste daily. Assume that we are actually 200 million people in the country, that’s about 160 million kg of waste daily. Say just 20 percent of those are plastics, we would have approximately 30 million kg of Plastic waste generated daily. With 30 plastic bottles equating to 1kg, that’s enough bottles to fill over a 100 standard football fields from my rough calculations.
However, general waste collection in Nigeria is hard and recycling collection is even harder. Many of us who have tried only recycling collection have been burnt and I think this is why there is more focus on processing- “a case of nobody wan die but everybody wan go heaven”. You want clean, washed and processed recyclables but you don’t want to invest in how those recyclables are collected post-consumption.
I am not arguing against more investment in the recycling processing side of the spectrum, because I understand the need to build factories to process the recyclables that I enjoy retrieving from the environment. But, we are seeing a skewed investment towards processing and this only creates more fully-equipped factories with not feed to work with.
An effective recycling collection system is the foundation of any successful recycling programme and so more investment should flow towards this pivotal space.