Aliyu Sadiq vividly remembers the countless times he would come home only to find his room flooded with water. Those tragic moments worried him; he imagined the experience for other victims from less-privileged families.
During that time, he was a student at the University of Abuja and lived off-campus at Anguwan Shanu in the Gwagwalada Area Council of Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory.
He was concerned when he realised that the community’s regular waste disposal on the waterways was the cause of the floods.
In 2019, after graduating from the university with a degree in geography and environmental management, Sadiq began working towards providing solutions to pressing environmental problems.
In 2020, these efforts led him to start Ecocyckle, a social enterprise organisation focusing on providing green solutions in environmentally marginalised communities to enable them to mitigate the effects of climate change and pollution.
“I was disturbed by the increasing environmental problems and rising cases of unemployment. Looking at how a large number of young people don’t have access to good jobs after graduating from university, I felt inspired to come up with this solution that will empower young people with profitable skills they can harness to solve environmental problems in their communities,” Sadiq said.
Following his experience with the growing number of illegal waste dumps in his new residence at Karu Local Government Area of Nasarawa State, Aliyu led a team in 2021 to design the Smart Mobile Bins. This eco-friendly waste collection cart provides waste collection and recycling services to households in rural communities that don’t have access to professional waste management services.
The Smart Mobile Bins are the first of their kind and are now fully operational in Nasarawa State. Sadiq continued, “It’s a modified version of conventional carts called (Amalanke) that informal waste collectors, also known as (Mai Shara), use in northern Nigeria.”
How it operates
The Smart Mobile Bins are operated by informal waste collectors who are trained to provide waste collection services in a more eco-friendly manner while reducing environmental pollution.
Also, it’s fully airtight, enclosed, and can accommodate more waste, unlike the open carts that produce air pollution. The Bins ensure that waste collectors don’t create air pollution that can cause environmental health issues.
Since conventional waste collector trucks cannot access some rural communities due to bad roads, the Smart Mobile Bins are created to bridge the gap so that these communities can access waste collection and recycling services.
“It prevents households in those communities from disposing their waste indiscriminately into water bodies or into illegal dump sites that may end up constituting huge environmental pollution,” Sadiq told Prime Progress.
In making the process transparent and effective, the Smart Mobile Bins are only provided to informal waste collectors with a proven track record of operation within the Karu Local Government Area.
After being scrutinised and receiving training, they must present a guarantor before being issued identity cards and uniforms to enable them to formally operate in promoting sustainable waste collection across rural communities.
Ecocyckle has also partnered with the local waste authorities on the legal places to temporarily dispose and sort the waste.
The local waste authorities and management agencies collect and pass the final waste to the landfills.
Other sorted waste that is recyclable is then sold to create profits for the informal waste collectors and the waste sorters.
Umar Usman was an informal waste collector within the Batallion 3 community before someone introduced him to the Smart Mobile Bins.
“After seeing it, I feltthat it’s good, and I followed all the screening process before I was able to secure it and started using it,” Usman explained with excitement.
Fortunately, many households are now patronising Usman, and that has increased his income.
“It has changed my life. Because I can now earn between N5,000 and N7,000 daily,” he admitted.
For Yusuf Nafiu, who sells shoes at Mararraba, whenever he sees Usman passing by with waste, a thousand and one questions knock his head.
“I initially asked Usman whether it’s company work that he does and wanted to know how the system operates. He then told me that he got it for free from an organisation to carry out waste collection services for households and also earn money from it,” Nafiu explained to Prime Progress.
Since then, Nafiu felt inspired to start operating the Smart Mobile Bin, where he intends to work with it in the morning and return to his shoe business in the evening. This is an opportunity for him to increase his income and contribute to environmental sustainability.
“I’m grateful to Usman for connecting me with the Ecocyckle team, who have already screened me and I’m going to start using it soon,” Nafiu said.
According to Sadiq, many other operators have testified to increase their income from the waste collection and recycling services.
“The Smart Mobile Bins are contributing immensely to a healthier and more sustainable environment. The operators get it for free. They are only expected to remit weekly payments of N1,000 to the organisation organisation, which we will use for maintenance of the Smart Mobile Bins,” stressed Sadiq.
Limitations and the way forward
The project has faced limitations during the initial stages of its implementation because of people’s resistance to accepting the innovation.
“While we came up with this idea, it was odd. Because people don’t understand what it is, and some even feel afraid. The Smart Mobile Bins operators were also sceptical, and it took us about four months to convince them before they started using it,” Sadiq recounted.
Additionally, it was a challenge to find operators who could be trusted with the Smart Mobile Bins through proper channels without any embezzlement. However, including the guarantor has made the operators consistent and diligent with their work.
Despite the limitations, Ecocyckle hopes to continue addressing waste management issues across various communities while creating green jobs and empowering young people with the Smart Mobile Bins to build sustainable and healthy communities in Nigeria.
The organisation is also looking forward to integrating the Smart Mobile Bins into a technological system where they can be monitored and reduce workloads to help the operators gain more money with fewer efforts.