YOLA, Nigeria (Reuters) — What many see as garbage has potential to earn a decent income for Aishatu Muhammed, so she’s out today collecting plastic bags for recycling.
Aishatu is part of a women’s group that recycles plastic waste in Yola, northeast Nigeria to make various products and accessories for sale.
Aishatu says she often doesn’t have to go far to pick the bags. Poor waste management has seen people dump trash by the roadside, leaving plastic bags to flutter from bushes nearby.
Twice every week, Aishatu and other members of Waste to Wealth Recycling Programme gather to clean collected bags and prepare them for reuse.
After washing and drying, the bags are cut into strips and rolled into balls of plastic.
The recycling programme was started in 2012 by the American University of Nigeria, to create environmental awareness as well as help people here learn new skills.
“This job has really helped me. Now I can pay my children’s school fees, I can buy food for my family and also help my relatives through this job,” said Aishatu.
Recycling provides work for the women who use various crotchet patterns to make mats, bags and other colourful accessories.
Residents in the country’s north-east are rebuilding after a seven-year bid by Boko Haram militants to create an Islamic state which uprooted 1.8 million people.
There is need to provide those who have returned home with skills and jobs to help revamp the economy here.
Initiatives like these help women find ways to earn an income and provide for their families.
The bags sell for between 3 to 47 dollars depending on size and quality.
The programme has trained over 300 women so far.
“We are working towards doing the right thing, so whenever we see plastic bags we pick them up; it has become a valuable thing now. Because of us there are few plastic bags in the streets compared to how it was before. The programme has really helped,” said Aisha Muhammed, another member of the recycling group.
Like in much of the continent, Africa’s most populous nation is still struggling to find efficient ways of managing waste generated by its 188 million people.
The recycling programme holds various exhibitions showcasing the hand crafted products made by the women to help market their work in parts of the country.
Raymond Obindu, is the group’s co-ordinator.
“We’ve made 7 million from the sales of these products that goes back to the women. So we’ve seen a single woman alone, make over 1.5 to 2 million Naira (4,700-6,276 U.S. dollars) alone because she was extremely good; she has bought a land, she’s got a computer, she has trained her children in school, so we’ve seen the economic benefits the women are having so the money spreads that way,” he said.
The project is also working on launching new training programmes that will see women work with various mediums like fabric to create more products in future.