Report from Lagos, Nigeria: Job creation through Wecyclers’ Waste Collection Cargo Bike

Wecyclers is an incentive based recycling venture that uses low-cost cargo bicycles to collect waste from households in low-income communities. In exchange for their waste, households receive points on their cell phones via SMS. (Wecyclers top scubscribers, pictured left.) Wecyclers has been operational since August 2012, since that time, we have registered over 1,400 households for our collection service, built six collection cargo bikes (“wecycles”) and collected over 18 metric tons of recyclable materials, of which 14 tons have been sold.

Initially our focus was almost solely on waste, -- how many tons of PET, LDPE and aluminum we hoped to collect over the next three years. When we started our pilot we even recruited our Wecyclers (bicycle operators) from within the neighborhood to ensure that they had maximum opportunity to collect waste. As the pilot progressed, and we got to know our Wecyclers, we realized that our work was not only about the waste we were collecting but also about the jobs we were creating. We saw that our recycling collection network has the potential to become a vehicle for job creation and poverty alleviation for many Nigerians. According to the Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics, 56% of youth in Nigeria are unemployed with the general unemployment rate growing at 16% per year.

Because jobs are scarce and prized, we have a waiting list of people eager to work with us. We have seen firsthand the impact having a job has had on our six Wecyclers. Lekan (pictured below left) works to help his mother pay for medicines to treat her chronic illness. Sunday (pictured above left), an aspiring supervisor, has learned the ropes rapidly, and frequently executes our sales singlehandedly. Tunde (pictured left) recently lost his father and now has to help provide for his family. Our goal is to provide well paying jobs with access to a dignified standard of living to 2,000 people by year 2015. We hope you can support us in making our dream a reality.

We are very excited to have been selected for the prestigious D-lab Scale-Ups fellowship which will allow us to build 13 more bikes and devise a sustainable and scalable “wecycle” production process.