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Can recycling apps revolutionise circular economy in Nigeria?

THE world as we used to know it changed forever in 2007. It was the year that the first commercially successful smartphone came to be, the Apple Iphone. Since, then smartphone applications called ‘apps’ for short began to gain popularity in development and usage, even as their functionalities increased.

Indeed, because of apps, the way we do things has changed. How we do banking has changed with banking apps and mobile payments; how we shop has changed, how we learn has changed, all due to the deployment of apps.

Going by their antecedents in other areas of human living, could apps be the game changer for recycling and the circular economy in Nigeria, generally? Recyclers in Nigeria say that apps are needed, but creating awareness in the country about recycling itself is just as necessary.

 

Recycling apps outside Nigeria

In Western nations like the United States of America and the United Kingdom, there are quite a number of recycling apps in use that aid the practice of recycling.

Americans use apps like 1800Recycling.com. This app makes use of the user’s GPS location to search for nearby recycling centres. It also enables the user to search in specific locations. It covers the United States and some parts of Canada.

For the people of Trump’s state, there is also the iRecycle app for iPhone and Android users. iRecycle helps the user locate recycling venues in one’s area. It also suggests several different ways to recycle materials. The app is the initiative of Earth911, an organisation that helps people across the world learn more about recycling by providing ideas that are easy to implement.

The Americans also have an app called “Daily Lives Recycling: Plastics.” This app suggests to the user ideas on how to recycle plastics, which reports say account for up 10 percent of an average person’s lifetime waste disposals!

In Malaysia, in 2015, the Penang Green Council developed an app to encourage citizens of Penang stateto do waste segregation and recycling in the hope that the app will familiarisepeople with the practice.

With the app called Trash2Treasure, people can find recycling centres. They can also find new owners or buyers for their used items through a function in the app called “Trade In Your Ex”.

This year, another state called Johor, developed its KITAR3cycle app that allows people redeem “Recycling Points” (RP) that can be converted into cash, items and shopping vouchers.

 

Recycling apps in Nigeria

If recycling apps have worked in other nations, will it be the same in Nigeria? Ecoscope spoke to three recycling organisations: One which has developed an app, another is in the process of developing an app, and the third is yet to develop one. The discussions were on their experiences so far regarding the deployment of apps in the recycling sector of Nigeria’s budding circular economy.

Taiwo Adewole is the Executive Director, Recyclepoints Nigeria. He told Ecoscope that his organisation has been in the business of encouraging Nigerians to do recycling by providing them with incentives, and their app is there to help in that task.

“With the app, we register users who can check online what they have collected so far since they started recycling. Anytime they give us items, we update it on the app. So, they too can monitor what they given,” Adewole said.

“We are trying to encourage people to do recycling that is why we give incentives,” he added.

Adewole noted Lagos State government’s initiative to encourage recycling by having coloured bins by which people can segregate their waste. He said this initiative would help in promoting recycling.

However, he noted that the use of recycling apps finds some limitation because for “a woman selling in Mushin or Ajegunle market, how can she use the app? These ones don’t have access to Android phones. This is a factor that needs to be considered.”

The Recyclepoints executive director said their app has been in use for over three years.

Mariam Lawani, Founder/CEO, Greenhill Recycling, said an app is in the works to make her organisation’s processes and operations easier.

“The app is supposed to deal with several areas: subscribers can make requests via the app; it can connect markets, that is, connect suppliers with collectors. For our riders who go out to pick up items, it will make it easier for them to input data on the go. Besides, every business should have technology infused in it!”

Lawani expressed optimism that the app will help promote the practice of recycling when it is launched later this year.

Adebola Sobanjo, Founder/CEO of RecycleGarb Hub Ltd, said apps could have all sorts of usage in the recycling industry, and developing a recycling app is an idea worth considering.

The social entrepreneur, whose recycling activities take place in Ibadan, however, told Ecoscope that people do not really know the basics of recycling. “It is one thing having an app, it’s another thing getting subscribers to use it. First of all, people must know the importance of getting the app, and how it will be beneficial to them, before they will go online and download it. It is another thing if you have to cajole people to use it. People need to understand the benefits of the app – that it will help drive the reduction of waste in the environment through recycling. They must understand that part first!”

 

The importance of awareness

“It is not just about creating an app – doing that alone is very easy. I know a recycler who developed an app and it is just there, people are really not using it. It is not just about technology, it is about the end users. Are they really informed?” the CEO of RecycleGarb Hub Ltd noted.

For Sobanjo, the basics must first be covered which is getting the people adequately informed about recycling, doing a research on apps before introducing technology.

Lawani, who is based in Lagos, shares the same opinion.  “Before you talk about apps, are people really aware as much as they should be that recycling is going on?  I ask because we engage in a lot of awareness and sensitisation campaigns. We go out on the streets and talk to people, and collaborate with other environment-conscious bodies to create awareness.”

In the process, she said she had encountered numbers of people with no clue that recycling takes place in Nigeria.

She expressed the need for the media to support recycling organisations to help create the necessary awareness on recycling, so that “people can know recycling exists, and that there are organisations that handle recycling.”

This sums it up. Nigeria’s recycling industry will benefit from the use of apps. But this cannot be truly successful without deliberate and sustained efforts to create awareness among the people on the concept of recycling.

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