Several times weekly, Osarode Odemwingie walks the streets of Upper Sakponba, a town of mostly low-income earners in Benin city, southern Nigeria’s Edo State, in a T-shirt, faze cap, and dunky shoes while holding a sac.
With the bag, he collects empty pringles cans from dumpsters. Pringles are potato-made chips.
At Home, his room is ‘chaotic’, littered with adhesives, foil papers and empty pringles cans. From these materials, he produces light modifiers he calls the “Rodome”.
Three years ago, the 25-year-old photographer and microbiologist noticed a lag in the photography industry in Nigeria; most photographers could not afford lighting gear due to the increasing cost of production, worsened by an unstable economy.
He thought of how to solve this and began experimenting with recycling empty pringles cans to make light modifiers.
“One day, when I was playing around, I took a pringles can and fitted it on a Speedlight, and I was amazed that it suited the shape of the Speedlight,” Odemwingie said, referring to photographic flashlights.
From then on, he would collect the cans, assemble them on the lawn at the back of his house. Then “I cut them into pieces and use adhesives to stick them into a cylindrical shape and fix foil paper on the inside,” he explained.
“Then, I get my LED bulbs, which usually have a plastic dome, and fix them onto the empty Pringles container. This ultimately creates a simple light modifier that photographers can use to make their lighting softer when taking pictures.”
Also exciting for him was the fact that he was putting solid waste that could cause pollution to reuse.
“I noticed that plastics are a major problem in Nigeria, as well as paper waste. I also observed that people buy LED bulbs and discard them as waste after use,” he said.
After several successful test runs in his mini studio, he was sure he had invented the next cost-effective gear for the photography community. And that was the beginning of Rodelenz industries, his company.
Now, people voluntarily bring him the waste materials he needs for his work.
“I get some of my materials from clients who know about my work beyond photography,” he told Prime Progress. “When they come to the studio, they are marvelled at what I do, and after that, they reach out to me and offer LED bulbs, which I can reuse.”
He also gets his friends to design flyers and share them across social media to promote his work. This sometimes gets him donations and pledges from people who admire his vision.
He hopes that in the future, he will be able to give people stipends for every pringle can they bring him.
“I rely on my friends to assist me with the logistics and marketing of my products. Some of my friends lend their cars to me, especially when moving Pringles containers from a dumpsite to my workstation,” he said.
His work is getting recognition in Nigeria and across Africa. His booth stood tall at the Circular Lagos Looplab for Innovators in 2022, same year his story got featured at the Cop27 Conference in Egypt.
Odemwingie’s innovation contributes to averting health and environmental crises that result from indiscriminate disposal of solid wastes like pringles cans.
Ragtag disposal of solid waste could result in land and water pollution, loss of biodiversity, obstruction of drainage, and the spread of infectious diseases.