Product, Service & Design Innovation
Nigerian Pedal-Powered Recycling Initiative Takes 2014 Sustainia Award for Best Sustainability Solution

Wecyclers, an initiative that enables low-income communities in Nigeria to make money from waste piling up in their streets, wins the 2014 Sustainia Award, chaired by Arnold Schwarzenegger. By deploying a fleet of cargo bicycles to collect and recycle unmanaged waste in Nigeria’s capital, Lagos, Wecyclers lets families exchange garbage for consumer goods via an SMS-based point system.

"The threats from climate change are real and they are here. But so are the solutions,” said Schwarzenegger, former Governor of California and chair of the Sustainia Award. “I am very inspired by this year’s Sustainia Award winner, Wecyclers. They show us that communities can create local solutions to waste and recycling issues, which are not only more sustainable but also improve public health and create new jobs and businesses. By coming together and acting in new ways, we can create positive and sustainable change in our communities and inspire cities around the world to do the same.”

Wecyclers, which was also the 2013 Tech Awards laureate, is a response to local waste issues in Lagos, where only 40 percent of the city’s garbage is collected; the World Bank estimates that only 10 percent of waste is collected across the whole of Africa. More than 5,000 households have already signed up for the service and there are plans to extend the initiative to other cities throughout Nigeria. Recycling companies purchase Wecyclers’ sorted waste for reprocessing for products as mattresses, pillows, trash bags, etc.

“We are so overwhelmed to win the Sustainia Award,” says Wecyclers CEO Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola. “I have always thought of our initiative as low-tech but high-impact. We focused on building a technology that would solve the unique problems of the communities we operate in. I believe that many other cities can help their communities in similar ways and provide healthier and cleaner surroundings for their citizens. This award gives us a great opportunity to share our work.”

Sustainia director Laura Storm said: “Solutions to combat climate change are not only high-tech innovations focused on cutting emissions, creating infrastructure or efficiency. To successfully solve the variety of challenges, we need variety in our solutions as well. Wecyclers is a leading example of a solution that empowers its community to lead healthier, wealthier and more sustainable lives. It offers very clear incentives for all players to get on board and that’s exactly what can help this solution succeed.”

Solutions to the World’s Climate Threats

Each year, Scandinavian think tank Sustainia highlights leading-edge sustainability solutions from around the globe in its Sustainia100. 10 finalists are selected from these, and one winner is then honored at the annual Sustainia Award Ceremony. Together with nine other leading innovations from seven countries — which included textile recycler I:CO; socially responsible mobile phone producer Fairphone; and Newlight Technologies, which turns methane gas into plastic — the Nigerian company unfolded their solution on stage at the annual Sustainia Award Ceremony. The yearly Copenhagen ceremony showcases readily available solutions, particularly relevant this year as the global spotlight is shining on the Danish capital, where more than 1,000 climate scientists, business leaders and experts are gathered awaiting the IPCC's Synthesis Report from a seven-year study of the impacts of climate change.

Last winner’s Sustainia Award-winning solution was from TaKaDu — an Israeli company whose software-based technology monitors water grids around the world and notifies utilities of leakages, pipe bursts or other irregularities.

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