Oriola Oluwaseyi, 32, makes her way through the busy streets of Ajegunle, a low-income community in Nigeria’s commercial center, Lagos, to collect plastic waste bottles from retail stores. In the evening, Oluwaseyi will drop the bottles at Moritz International School where her 8-year old daughter, Rebecca attends primary school. The bottles will act as down payment for her daughter’s tuition.
As a petty trader earning a pittance from trading car engine oil at bustling Ajegunle market in Lagos, Oluwaseyi does not earn enough to cover the annual 18,000 naira (around $50) school fees. However, thanks to a recent partnership with Africa Cleanup Initiative (ACI), an NGO with focus on sustainability, her daughter’s school now accepts the plastic bottles in exchange for school fees. Through a program called RecyclesPay, ACI collaborates with schools in low-income communities to allow parents who are unable to afford fees for their children to pay using plastic bottles they collect. Twice a month Oluwaseyi visits her daughter’s school with bags full of sorted plastic bottle recyclables. The cost of tuition is determined by how many bottles she has collected; for every 200 kilograms of recyclable bottles, Oluwaseyi can earn up to ₦4,000 (about $11) off the term’s tuition of ₦7500 (about $24).
“The program has given me leverage to channel the funds I would have spent on school fees, to buying of school bag, new pair of sandals and books for her,” Oluwaseyi says.
Nigeria has been tagged the poverty capital of the world, with 87 million Nigerians, around half of the country’s population, living on less than $1.90 per day.
There are more than 450,000 megatons of plastic waste discarded in Lagos waters every year, according to reports in local media. According to 2017 Ocean Atlas report, Nigeria is ranked number 11 in the world for plastic pollution, posing health risks to citizens and causing environmental damage.
Alexander Akhigbe, founder of ACI, says through the RecyclesPay scheme he is providing solutions to Nigeria’s environmental and climate issues. So far, ACI has run its projects in five schools in Lagos and has reached more than 1,000 school children, he says.