Amplifying Youth Voices for the SDGs

The Nigerian Youth SDGs Network held its Regional Youth Dialogue in commemoration of the 2019 International Youth Day across 6 geopolitical zones of Nigeria with more than 2,000 participants on August 8, 2019. 

Our Founder, Olamide Ayeni-Babajide gave the keynote speech at the Lagos hub where change-makers gathered to network and brainstorm ways to amplify youth voices.

The Keynote Speech is printed here for those of us who couldn’t make it to the event.

I naturally think making SDG a written standard of everyday decision was a good way to bring us back to realize that we have derailed from the initial master-plan of our existence. Should we talk about moral, religion and humanity, they all point to the fact that poverty shouldn’t exist among us. They talked about cleanliness, seeking knowledge and making the world a better place. It’s however sad and worrisome that some people will have to ring this to our consciousness, reminding us that quality education is a right, not a privilege or telling us to be responsible in our consumption and production.

At the same time, we must applaud the actions of youths like us who have decided to solve problems affecting us by taking responsible steps even before the categorization of SDG into sections, a lot of youths all over the world have risen up to the challenges facing their nations and immediate environment before the advent of SDGoals.


I must confess that Nigerian youths and by extension, African youths, have taken enviable actions in curbing issues affecting us. Unfortunately, we haven’t learnt and mastered the act of telling our stories which has affected our international projection and profiling. However, this does not in any way erase the  fact that Nigerian Youths are up and doing in solving both global and local problems.

I consider it a privilege to stand before you today to talk about “Amplifying youth voices for the SDGs”. I do not take this for granted knowing fully well that I am standing before change-makers like myself who have broken stereotypes and shattered obstacles to get to where they are today.

Just like most of us, passion made me a change-maker and the same passion gave birth to Pearl Recycling, a social enterprise I founded in 2016 to solve the problem of waste through creative waste remodeling.

Starting my own social enterprise was a decision that came with the regular and irregular obstacles. The first obstacle we had to fight was from those within the same sector with us. You know Recycling has been in the limelight here for a while and upcycling wasn’t really known because the early upcyclers thought they were craft-makers and not change-makers. So we had little narration about upcycling in this clime and we had to first create the awareness and sensitization.

We also had a lot of problems with stereotypical waste profiling whereby people see waste as dirty and untouched. It took us more than 24 months to change the perception of most people to waste.

After that, we had to work out ways to generate revenue and become sustainable knowing fully well that we are not a not-for-profit and as such, we have to create revenue stream.

It’s been 3years of running with this vision called Pearl Recycling and I think these years have given me the opportunity to share some of the lessons I took out of our obstacles and I believe these are also applicable to all change-makers creating SDG solutions all over the world.

The theme of this year’s Nigerian Youth SDGs Network International Youth Day is “Amplifying Youth Voices for the SDGs” and I believe that the lessons I will be sharing will not only help us to amplify our voices, it will also help us to solidify and increase our impact.

The first thing I learnt is that..

“It’s important to know how to write your story”.

When you look around you, you will realize that the same sets of people are being recognized for their impacts, the same sets of people are being awarded grants, the same set of people are being showcased for doing amazing things in respect to SDG’s but truth is, most times, these people aren’t even the best of us, they aren’t doing half of what the world thinks they are doing, they aren’t even passionate change makers. We wonder why them, every time, but have we ever asked, what exactly are they doing right?


I will tell you, 80% of these people have mastered the art of telling their stories in the right way. They took time out to learn, practice and design human-centered profile of their solutions and that is why we see them getting all the recognition. So we must also start to write our stories the way the world want to see it. We should know all the sustainable development goals our solutions are solving and also understand the importance of impact-based report.

Impact based report focuses on the number of lives affected, communities imparted and sustainable methodologies included.


We can’t write a compelling story without telling the world the number of people or communities our solutions have affected positively, the number of people it will affect based on our projections using verifiable and measurable metrics and how we hope to sustain the impact.

In measuring our impact, we must never look down on the things we have done and consider them insignificant. Something as minute as our solution changing the mindset of people should be captured. How that one person we reached as reached other people should also be captured.

There are tools available for capturing impact for social entrepreneurs which we can use. Tools like: B Lab Assessment Tools and Social Lean Canvas, helps social enterprises to test their models methodically and arrive at a thoroughly validated, scalable and repeatable business model while also measuring and managing their impact as readily as they do profitability.

I will like to emphasis the keywords here:

  • Methodology of your process,
  • Validation of your Methods,
  • Scalability of the Solution,
  • Replicability of the Solution,
  • Impact Assessment,
  • Sustainability and
  • Profitability Assessment.

Telling our stories shouldn’t be passion driven but impact driven so that we can be able to compete globally and tell the world how our solutions are amplifying SDGoals.

It took me a long time to figure that collaboration is the new competition.

Also, I realized that majority of us work in silos and we do not appreciate collaboration. We must learn to work together to achieve the same result, this time, on a larger scale. For example, let assume someone here makes cloths or bags from waste fabrics and she is planning to exhibit the products. We all can come together to support with our own innovations. A recycler of plastics can say, I will pick up the used waste plastics and recycle for you. Another can say I will give free upcycled chairs for your guests and another can say, I will help with the publicity on my page. That is how we collaborate. We have so much resources and human capital at our disposal to help us thrive together than in silos.

When we work together, we create bigger impact and show the world that we understand teamwork. The time has come to ignore the urge to shine alone rather, we should learn to hold hands with others and create this positive impact we said we are passionate about.

In conclusion, I also learnt the art of writing my impact statement. For majority of us, we talk about our impact without focusing on the people or communities these impact affects. We focus on us and what we do without capturing perfectly how our impact has changed things, people, communities and lives. We must learn to talk about our impact in terms of numbers. Measurable metrics we use must show statistics, numbers and how we came about it.

Finally, I will say the best way to amplify our voice is to:

  • Work together – Collaboration,
  • Put our stories out there – Visibility and
  • Have a footprint of what we do – Digital Backlink.
  • Be open to development both locally and globally – Network and form synergy.

I am proud of all we do and I will leave the stage with these words “We should be more passionate about real change and positive impact than money or fame”

Thank you

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I ventured into Waste Recycling to create jobs for vulnerable women, keep environment clean — Olamide Ayeni-Babajide

Pearl Recycling founder had an interview with Vanguard Newspaper in Nigeria, where she talked about her journey, vision and the desire to create change among the poor and vulnerable. We have curated the interview below for your reading pleasure.

Mrs. Olamide Ayeni-Babajide is the founder of Pearl Recycling, a social enterprise in Nigeria engaged in the recycling of solid waste into sustainable and eco-friendly products.

The social entrepreneur, motivational speaker and environmentalist explained why she started Pearl Recycling in 2016, a passion she enjoy doing,  raising young entrepreneurs and transforming the life of vulnerable women in the societies. Excerpt

What inspires you to go into Waste Recycling?

My first inspiration came from the fact that every morning on my way to work I see a lot of women who are unemployed begging for alms to survive. It became a huge problem for me to give them alms and at the same time I realized that they will definitely come back to continue begging. Secondly, I see wastes  everywhere and the impacts on the environment are enormous which is a big concern for me.  So, in 2012, I traveled to United Arab Emirates, UAE, for an official assignment.

It was at that point, I bought a wall décor from a store and discovered that the wall decor was made from waste which actually caught my fancy. From that moment I began to think of what to do with the wastes we generates in this Nigeria, how to empower these women, build a product from waste of international standard and keep the environment clean.

That inspired me; seeing two different problems including the problem of waste and  empowering vulnerable women who I know are ready to learn.  So, in 2014, I started waste recycling business before I ventured into it fully in 2016

…From waste recycling, challenges and achievements?

We have done quite a lot as a small company in Nigeria. It is a known fact that businesses like ours is not likely to survive at inception. But, we have survived and today, we trained over 250 women with vocational skills on how to turn waste into beautiful products.  We are currently donating 400 chairs to 20 public schools in Lagos made from waste.


We are training 800 students from public schools on waste management.  The idea is to train 40 students in each school and have about 85 students joining the recycling club.

Also we have been able to change the mindset of more than 2 million people who follow us on our social media platform on wastes.   As an organization we are happy seeing those people. We have orientation on waste management. The environment is becoming better and people are empowered to give back to their community.

For instance, one of our students based in Ibadan created forty playgrounds in forty public schools using waste that is a huge impact for the students and the community.  Looking at our challenges, the ease of doing business in Nigeria is poor; you have to struggle to survive every day.  If the government laws are not choking you, the taxes will be choking you.

It is hard to survive in an environment like that. The environment is not friendly for you to build on your ideas and vision. We also have a problem of perception of people on waste, a lot people see waste as waste because that is how they grew up.  So telling them to change and accept new orientation on waste management becomes difficult. We also have problem of mentors, and being a creative industry there are dearth of mentors who understand what we do. So most time when we are face with challenges, we hardly find mentors we can count on and who understand us deeply and can proffer solution.

…Tell us about your organisation.

Pearl Recycling is an organization that was established for profit. As we moved on we saw the need to change a lot of thing in our structure.  We realized that we need to give back to the community as part of our corporate social responsibility. In doing so, we cannot tell the community to pay us for the impacts, so we became a hybrid organization.  This means that, we channel 30 percent of our profit to impact the community, making us a profit and at the same time non-profit organization. But we are registered as a profit organization, a limited liability company. On funding, we generate revenue and from our revenue we make profit which we used to run and sustain the business.  When we started this business, we got few grants from Tony Elumelu Foundation and WIMBIZ which help us in getting an office space and scale up our operations

Apart from grants from Tony Elumelu Foundation and WiMBIZ, do you have any Government supports?

Pearl Recycling did not get any support from the government that is just the truth. As a matter of fact, we have more support from the international organizations than the Nigeria government. Most of the supports came from the America government and organizations inclduing the Ford Foundation, the US Embassy Abuja through Department of State.  We are looking at other  companies to invest and support us.

What is the criteria for selecting those women for training programme?


We focus more on unemployed women, vulnerable women, widows, single mothers, jobless individuals and unemployed youths who are poised on engaging themselves.

Through our social media platform and website we announce an opening for them to apply.  The training is not free, but fortunately, last year, the training we conducted was free because Ford Foundation paid for 100 people. There is criteria for selecting people, We select people without jobs and help.


Tyre Upcycling

Is the fee for the training affordable?

It is affordable. And we have training for the downtrodden.  We give them 50 percent discount for undergoing our training. Our fees are affordable because we look at so many other things. The fact remains that when you start this business and you are serious about it, you will definitely recoup in one month after the training.

The raw materials are everywhere which is wastes. So we look at all these things. We see skills acquisition centers everywhere which are quite more expensive than what we charge, and we also understand the fact that something that does not cost much may really not make sense.  So when the training is made free, a beneficiary may decide to forget about it and  go back to his or her normal business but if it costs them something they will appreciate it more. So these are other things we are looking at.


What is the response after training. Is there a mechanism for follow-up or mentoring?

As a matter of fact  we  do not abandon them. we created  a group on Instagram and  Facebook  to continue the conversation.  In fact, we do not capitalize on vocational skills only,  we  also teach them how to access grants and the importance of structure because we  understand the place of funding and capital in  business startups.  That is why our training is different from other training we see around.

We help our trainees to get scholarship opportunities and we also let them know that they have to balance their smartness with hard work.  You really can not depend on 100 percent hard work alone. We do not abandon them rather we place priorities on communities of women who are empowering each other and lifting each other up everyday


…And the competitive market?

The waste industry is a lucrative industry depending on the sectors. For me, it is about understanding your market and implore a unique market strategy.  We have competitors but  we do not focus on them because we have our focus on our rules and principles of where we want to be. Although,  I  appreciate lots of people and firms that are joining the business, if nothing else, just to solve  the problem of wastes in our communities.

…Would you say, this business is a blessing?

Well waste is not a blessing even though it serves as our raw material but the truth of the matter is that there

will be waste. It could have been control waste; control waste in the sense that in the developed world they have organizations that are taking waste and people pay to throw their waste.

At the same time, there are places designated for people like us go to and pick what we want out the waste. According to the UN an average human will generate at least 1.6kg of waste daily, now imagine the number of people on earth and in Nigeria 180 million people.

The problem is seeing waste on the streets, drainage, among others which becomes an eyesore and of course not a blessing for us. That is why one of the things we do at Pearl Recycling is partnering with people we know that generates waste.

Now for tyre wastes, we partner with vulcanizers. We pay them stipend to have these tyres because we really do not want these liters on the street.  However, waste is a blessing because it is a raw materials but waste on the street is a curse because it causes sickness, diseases, among others.

…Your future plans as an environmentalist?

I am  looking at creating an academy, a hub for creative environmentalists like us for innovation and ideas.  I want to create that opportunity for schools to bring in their pupils to learn. I also want to create an eco-friendly furniture mart  in Nigeria, like an alternative furniture mart cheaper than the conventional furniture and more beautiful.

Source: VanguardNews

Are you keen about creating a sustainable environment? then check out our sustainable products upcycled from waste

Are you interested in learning waste to furniture vocational skill or you just want to reach out to us, use the form below.

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The mounting plastic crisis is being met with the reactive waves of worldwide bans on single-use plastic bags and straws in many countries especially at supermarkets and food establishments. Every year there are eight million tons of plastic dumped into the ocean, with straws making up four percent of plastic trash. Plastic trash is harmful to aquatic animals and the United Nations (UN) estimates that by 2050, there could be more plastic than fish in our oceans.


While the damage plastic straws do to marine life and the environment is devastating, the use of plastic straws should not be entirely banned. There are many people who depend on straws for a variety of reasons, leaving them the option of using alternatives like reusable or biodegradable straw.

Source: The Asean Post

Yet for some, the plastic straw ban is more than just an inconvenience. At hospitals, patients who cannot consume liquids use plastic straws as a drinking tube. The invention of straws allows people with disabilities the freedom of doing things by themselves. Unfortunate for them, there are still no viable alternatives that work for people with disabilities. The main concern of eco-friendly straws is their inability to bend and be positioned like plastic straws.

Plastic straws are still essential for people with a wide range of disabilities. Able-bodied people on the other hand do not have a valid excuse not to use reusable straws. A replacement is necessary and many have stepped up to provide options for this growing demand. Currently straws can be made of metal, bamboo, glass, silicone, acrylic, paper and even pasta.

Sustainable materials have long been used to make straws but a recent ingenious solution from a young Vietnamese entrepreneur is making waves. His straws are made from wild grass.


Tran Minh Tien from Vietnam has found a zero-waste alternative to sustainable plastic straws. His straws are made from grey sedge grass of the species Lepironia Articulata. Locally known as “co bang”, the grass grows around the Mekong Delta region in south-western Vietnam.

Tran set up his company, Ong Hut Co, with the intention of protecting the environment by reducing the use of plastic straws. Hand-crafted by a group of women residing in Duc Hue, at Long An province, sedge grass has a hollow stem, making it perfect for use as a natural straw.

The fresh grass straws can be used after it has been cleaned and cut into approximately 20-centimetre lengths. An iron rod is then used to clean the hollow stem.

These straws are then sold in a bundle, wrapped in banana leaves and can be stored for up to two weeks. They must be kept in airtight bags and refrigerated. To make these fresh straws last longer, Tran suggests boiling the straws with some salt, then letting them dry before storing in a cool dry place. However, for a longer shelf life of six months, the straws are dried under the sun for two to three days and later, baked in an oven.

Naturally organic, the straws are edible and can be also used to clean teeth and gums. They are of course free of chemicals and preservatives, compostable and affordable. Sold in bundles of 100, a single dried straw costs US$0.04 while a fresh one is US$0.02. The straws are currently sold in Vietnam.

Another Vietnam based company selling straws made out of grass is Zero Waste Saigon who began looking into sustainable materials, after they were taken aback when they saw monkeys in the forest eating plastic bags. The company was started by Julia Mesner and Michael Burdge.

People are now more conscious of the environment and are choosing biodegradable straws and paper bags as alternatives when shopping or eating out. The introduction of grass straws into the larger market is not only advantageous for Vietnam’s economy, it is also great for the environment.

Are you keen about creating a sustainable environment? then check out our sustainable products upcycled from waste

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One of the ways to reduce deforestation is to create sustainable alternatives to “everyday” furniture making. At Pearl Recycling , we remodel waste materials like rubber  into eco-friendly products.

You can reach out to us on 07019268146


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According to World Bank, municipal waste generation in Nigeria is expected to rise to 2.2 billion tonnes by 2025. This is due to the rapid population growth and urbanization Nigeria is currently experiencing. With the recent report of Waste Management Society of Nigeria (WAMASON) putting annual waste generation in Nigeria at 65 million metric tonnes and Lagos flaunting an embarrassing 13 million metric tonnes annually, it’s important to note that plastic waste account for more than 65% of the aforementioned annual waste.

Image Credit: Pulitzer Center

Even though Plastic Recycling  is becoming a trending alternative to plastic waste menace in Nigeria, it’s important to look beyond recycling and focus more on plastic reduction strategies.

Recently, the Nigeria’s house of representatives passed a bill banning the use and sale of plastic bags in the country. The bill states that, anyone that fails to provide customers with paper bags in place of plastic bags risks three years in jail or a fine of N500,000 – or both penalties. The bill, still undergoing fine-tuning by the conference committee of the house before submission to the presidency is already sending shivers down the spine of SME’s in the country.

Image: aboutmanchester

However, while there is a bill in place and process ongoing, the environmental authorities of both the Federal and  State Government haven’t started the necessary sensitization to help SME’s and citizens become aware of the advantage of the proposed plastic ban bill and also create a seamless transition to zero plastic packaging.

We stumbled on the viral story of Asia embracing sustainable alternative to plastic packaging and reducing the amount of plastic waste on their landfills. Supermarkets and Malls in Asia are ditching plastic packaging of food items to embrace toxin free, chemical-free alternative of Banana leaves.

Image: Perfecthomes

Banana leaves are known to be beneficial to human either fresh or dried. According to an online health blog, Banana leaves are High in Antioxidants due to the fact that they contain high polyphenols, a type of antioxidants, which is needed to fight many disorders caused by free radicals in our body.  They Cure Sore Throats, Reduces Fever,  Boosts Immune System and are useful in the treatment of Dysentery. Banana leaves are also available in high quantity in Nigeria and with them, there is no fear of pollution. When decayed, they act as manure to the soil.

With the glaring benefits of Banana leaves to the environment and even the packaged food products, it’s important to sensitize small business owners and owners of large-scale supermarkets to embrace sustainable and viable alternative to plastic packaging of food products especially, fresh farm foods that are sold to the masses with plastic packaging which are known to contain carcinogenic properties.

Image: PerfectHomes

Beyond being a cheaper alternative, Banana Leaves are also beneficial to human and the environment at large. This solution, if embraced, will go a long way to reduce environmental pollution caused by plastic waste.

Image: ObamaFoundation

Olamide Ayeni

Engineer | Social Entrepreneur | Mother


Lagos, Nigeria



Have you ever wondered what we can make out of trash? find below some of our products, made from remodeled solid waste.


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Canada to remove trash from Philippines by end of June

TORONTO (AP) — Canada said Wednesday that by the end of June it will remove truckloads of garbage which Filipino officials say were illegally shipped to the Philippines years ago.

Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said the government has awarded a contract to French shipping giant Bollore Logistics Canada that calls for the return of 69 containers filled with household waste and electronic garbage.

“The company will begin preparation for shipping in the coming days. The removal will be complete by the end of June, as the waste must be safely treated to meet Canadian safety and health requirements,” McKenna’s department said in a statement.

Source: CTV News

The trash is expected to be back in Canada by the end of summer.

Salvador Panelo, a spokesman for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, held a news conference earlier Wednesday to announce that Duterte has ordered officials to look for a private shipping company to transport the garbage to Canadian territory in an escalation of his increasingly adversarial stance.

“If Canada will not accept their trash, we will leave the same within its territorial waters or 12 nautical miles out to sea from the baseline of any of their country’s shores,” Panelo said. “The president’s stance is as principled as it is uncompromising: The Philippines as an independent sovereign nation must not be treated as trash by other foreign nations.”

The Philippine government recalled its ambassador and consuls in Canada last week over Ottawa’s failure to comply with a May 15 deadline to take back the garbage.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week that Canada has been working hard with Philippine officials to resolve the problem and hoped to strike a resolution quickly though he gave no time frame.

In 2017, Trudeau said legal issues preventing the return of the garbage to Canada had been resolved. “This is a situation that is unacceptable and has gone on too long,” Trudeau said Wednesday.

Canada is also looking at ways to hold the responsible parties to account.

At least 103 containers of household trash, including plastic bottles and bags, newspapers and diapers, were shipped in batches from Canada to the Philippines from 2013 to 2014. Thirty-four were already dealt with by Filipino authorities. Most of the other 69 containers are in two ports in Manila and northern Subic Freeport, sparking protests from environmental activists.

Source: ABS-CBN News

Philippine officials say all the containers were falsely declared by a private firm as recyclable plastic scraps and asked Canada to take back the garbage.

Duterte raised the garbage issue in a speech last month while officials from both countries were already discussing a resolution. The volatile president said he was ready to “declare war” against Canada over the issue.

Panelo said Duterte was upset “about the inordinate delay of Canada in shipping back its containers of garbage,” adding “We are extremely disappointed with Canada’s neither here nor there pronouncement on the matter.”

“Obviously, Canada is not taking this issue nor our country seriously. The Filipino people are gravely insulted about Canada treating this country as a dumpsite,” Panelo said.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said she hoped her government’s move would calm the matter.

“I think we have taken a big step with the announcement today and we are moving as quickly as we can, bearing in mind, you know, the need to take due care to get this resolved once and for all,” she said Wednesday.

The dispute has been the latest strain in Philippine relations with Canada under Duterte. Last year, he ordered the cancellation of a multimillion-dollar agreement to buy 16 helicopters from Canada after Trudeau’s government decided to review the deal due to concerns that the Philippine military might use the aircraft in counterinsurgency assaults.

News Source: Associated Press

Associated Press writer Rob Gillies reported this story in Toronto and AP writer Jim Gomez reported from Manila, Philippines.

Have you ever wondered what we can make out of trash? find below some of our products, made from remodeled solid waste.


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Can anything good come out of waste? Absolutely YES.
Waste, like water, is a useful resources that needs to be explored in Nigeria.


We create an alternative waste reuse model, which is complete waste remodeling using creative innovation.

Upcycled wastes are known to be durable and last-longer than regular wood furniture.

We have included some of our products, made from rubber waste for you to see.


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Furthermore, uncontrolled tyre burning has been proven to be 16 times more mutagenic, meaning capable of inducing genetic mutation, than traditional residential wood combustion in a fireplace, and 13,000 times more mutagenic than coal-fired utility emissions with good combustion efficiency and add-on controls.

The world, as usual, will celebrate World Environment Day on June 5, 2019. In what has become the norm around the world, environmental conscious organisations will b eat the forefront of sensitizing and advocating for a better environment. The question is, Has there been any significant change in environmental behavior among people, especially in developing nations?

This year theme is Air-Pollution. How can we all fight against air-pollution and make the environment a safer place for all to live and breathe. Truth is, we can’t live without breathing and if we can’t control how we breathe, we should control what we breathe. We decided to look into tyre burning, a common environmental abuse in developing nations like Nigeria.

Tyre burning serves many purpose, from it being a rioting tool, to being a necessary tool to set fire on forest or in some cases, burning it to extract oil using an uncontrolled procedure. All these process creates pollution and endangers earthly inhabitant. In some rare case, tyres are burnt as the primary source of energy for kilns.

Burning of tyres and other rubber materials as a primary source of energy for kilns is particularly concerning.  In other areas of the world, like India, where the concerns lie in the harmful effects of coal-fired kilns, areas like Morocco and other North African countries are dealing with harmful impacts of tyre burning.

While burning tyres does provide an efficient source of energy, the harmful effects of such burning far exceed the benefits.

Scrap tyres are used as a supplement to traditional fuels such as coal or wood fuel because of their high heating value.

Typically, for each pound of scrap tyre rubber burned it equates to 15,000 BTUs of energy and a single tyre can burn for up to 50 minutes.  This equates to 25 percent more energy being produced than coal.

Regardless of the efficiency, the fumes that are being released from tyre burning have been shown to be extremely toxic to human health and harmful to the environment.

Dangers to Public Health

Open tyre fire emissions include “criteria”pollutants, such as particulates, carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur oxides (SOx), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). They also include “non-criteria” hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), such as polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs),dioxins, furans, hydrogen chloride, benzene, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); and metals such as cadmium, nickel, zinc, mercury, chromium, and vanadium.

Both criteria and non-criteria pollutants can cause significant short and long term health effects.  Depending on the length and degree of exposure, these health effects could include irritation of the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes, respiratory effects, central nervous system depression, and cancer.  The EPA suggests that any unprotected exposure to these emissions be avoided.

Furthermore, uncontrolled tyre burning has been proven to be 16 times more mutagenic, meaning capable of inducing genetic mutation, than traditional residential wood combustion in a fireplace, and 13,000 times more mutagenic than coal-fired utility emissions with good combustion efficiency and add-on controls.

Especially troubling is the exposure that children living within these communities are inadvertently being subjected to. Children, foetuses, nursing babies, elderly, asthmatics, and immune suppressed individuals are all much more vulnerable to the pollutants released burning tyres.

Even a nursing woman can transfer the pollution she inhales to a baby through the fat in her breast milk.  During breast-feeding, infants are exposed to higher concentrations of organic pollutants than at any subsequent time in their lives. Burning tyres only adds to that toxic burden.

Saving money on fuel by burning tyres should not take precedence over public health. Unfortunately, in small villages and other underdeveloped areas where tyre burning kilns sustain much of the local economy, exposure to these toxins is inevitable with the current practices being employed.

Huge Environmental Costs

In addition to the negative effects tyre burning has on the health of humans, it also has environmental costs that have not yet been discussed. The three main effects tyre burning has on the environment is air, water, and soil pollution.   The airborne pollution caused from the tyre burning kilns is significant.  The black fumes contain heavy metals and other harmful pollutants that linger in the air and can lead to acute to chronic health hazards.

In terms of water and soil pollution, according to the EPA,

“for every million tyres consumed by fire, about 55,000 gallons of runoff oil can pollute the environment unless contained and collected”.

If uncontrolled, this runoff can then be carried away by rainwater to local water sources contaminating them.  Additionally, the remaining residue can cause two types of pollution; these are immediate pollution by liquid decomposition products penetrating soil, and gradual pollution from leaching of ash and unburned residues following rainfall or other water entry.

Credit: Western Tyre Recyclers

While the burning of tyres is not considered recycling, there is an argument regarding whether it is worse to landfill tyres or reuse them to recover energy.  While even in the United States the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes that the use of tyre-derived fuels is a viable alternative to the use of fossil fuels, there are other factors that need to be considered.

For instance, in more developed areas of the world, regulations are in place such as the Clean Air Act which minimizes the amount of emissions being released by businesses as well as the fact that technology exists that can help clean and filter the emissions before they are released into the air.

On the other hand, in less developed areas of the world, environmental regulations and technology of this magnitude may not exist thus,exposing those citizens to more of the environmental and health related effects of uncontrolled tyre burning.

While many factors contribute to either argument, all in all this particularly issue is under examined and results in the impairment of health and the safety of entire communities in the developing world.

Pearl Recycling Waste Remodeling Initiative

However at Pearl Recycling, we see discarded tyres as useful resources in championing the circular economy mandate. Tyres are non-biodegradable, making them long lasting and resistant to termite invasion. They are flexible to work with and can be design to fit many purposes. They can serve as indoor or outdoor furniture, agricultural landscape and can be broken down into tiny particles and reconstructed into different designs. There is no  limit to what we can get out of tyres except, of course, there is a limit to our own innovative thinking.

Some of our products, designed from tyres can be seen below.


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Contributing Source: EcoMena



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The Problem Today

Currently, 40% of soil in Africa is degraded. Degraded soil diminishes food production and leads to soil erosion, which in turn contributes to desertification. This is particularly worrisome since, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, some 83% of sub-Saharan African people depend on the land for their livelihood, and food production in Africa will have to increase almost 100% by 2050 to keep up with population demands. All of this makes soil erosion a pressing social, economic, and environmental issue for many African countries.

Reality on Ground.

Katsina State Government has spent over N6 billion in three years on erosion and flood control across the state, the Commissioner for Environment, Hamza Suleiman, has said.

Suleiman made the disclosure at the opening of a workshop for some participants of Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) in Katsina.

“The state government had implemented various projects on gully restoration, storm water, erosion control and flood project before the coming of NEWMAP in the state.

According to him, over N2.8 billion was spent by the government between 2015 and 2017 to tackle some of the 3000 complaints it received from communities affected by various ecological challenges.

“The state government also expended another N3.2 billion in third and fourth quarters of 2017 to 2018 to control erosion in 49 communities.

Can Law Review be the Solution?

“The state House of Assembly will assist in reviewing the existing laws on erosion with the aim of making erosion control a success in the state,”

What is land degradation?

Land degradation is caused by multiple forces, including extreme weather conditions particularly drought, and human activities that pollute or degrade the quality of soils and land utility negatively affecting food production, livelihoods, and the production and provision of other ecosystem goods and services.

Threats to land integrity

Land degradation has accelerated during the 20th century due to increasing and combined pressures of agricultural and livestock production (over-cultivation, overgrazing, forest conversion), urbanization, deforestation, and extreme weather events such as droughts and coastal surges which salinate land.

What does land degradation mean for health?

These social and environmental processes are stressing the world’s arable lands and pastures essential for the provision of food and water and quality air. Land degradation and desertification can affect human health through complex pathways. As land is degraded and in some places deserts expand, food production is reduced, water sources dry up and populations are pressured to move to more hospitable areas. The potential impacts of desertification on health include:

  • Higher threats of malnutrition from reduced food and water supplies;
  • More water- and food-borne diseases that result from poor hygiene and a lack of clean water;
  • Respiratory diseases caused by atmospheric dust from wind erosion and other air pollutants;
  • The spread of infectious diseases as populations migrate.

Source: UNCCD

How do we reduce soil degradation?

Use of organic farming techniques: Organic farming involves the application of natural means in farming, to reduce harm to the environment. Some organic farming techniques that help restore the soil include use of green manure (uprooted or sown crop parts incorporated or left on topsoil), cover crops, crop rotation and organic compost.

  • Green manure and cover crops: Green manures and cover crops serve as mulch to the soil preventing the soil from wind/water erosion and moisture loss. They also increase the soil organic matter content as they decompose in the soil. Green manure and cover crops that are legumes (plants which produce seeds in pods) have nitrogen fixing ability. The nitrogen fixing bacteria in their root nodules help capture nitrogen from the atmosphere. Green manure and cover crops suppress weed growth. It is a cheap and natural (no herbicide use) method of controlling weeds.
  • Organic compost: Organic compost is a generally cheaper method of fertilizing the soils compared to inorganic fertilizers. Compost is a mixture of decomposed plant parts and animal waste. The key benefit of composting is that it increases soil organic matter content. Organic matter improves the soil fertility, the soil structure and its water holding capacity. It also sequesters carbon in the soil. The use of compost reduces use of chemical fertilizers which if applied inappropriately can contaminate neighbouring streams or ground water.
  • Crop rotation: This is a farming practice which involves growing different types of crops in one location sequentially. This practice reduces soil erosion, increases the soil fertility and subsequently crop yield.

Source: National Geographic

Soil remediation: Soil remediation involves the removal of harmful contaminants such as, heavy metals, sewage sludge, coal tar, carcinogenic hydrocarbons, liquors and petroleum from soils. Soil remediation can be achieved using biological techniques. This method is called bioremediation. Some examples of bioremediation techniques include:

  • Phytoremediation: The use of plants to remove contaminants from soils or to degrade contaminants to a lesser toxic form. Some plants have the ability to extract contaminants from soils. This process is called phytoextraction. The willow (Salix viminalis) is a shrub credited for its ability to extract cadmium from soils. Phytoextraction is one technique in phytoremediation. Some other techniques are phytostabilization, phytotransformation and phytostimulation.
  • Bioaugmentation: This is the introduction of genetically modified micro organisms into contaminated soils with the aim of degrading contaminants. The efficiency of this technique depends on a number of factors, some of which are the physico-chemical properties of the soil and the ability of the introduced micro organisms to compete successfully with the indigenous soil microflora.
  • Land-based treatments: This includes techniques like land farming and composting. In land farming, contaminated soils are taken to land farming sites and continuously overturned and tilled to allow aeration. In composting, micro organisms present in organic material are used to biodegrade soil contaminants.

When soils are contaminated they constitute an environmental hazard. Soil remediation is always an expensive large scale project; requiring funding or approval by the government or local authority involved.

Source: ResearchGate

A good example of a soil remediation project was the restoration of soils contaminated with stockpiles of obsolete pesticides in two African countries (Mali and Mauritania). These soils were restored using composting and land-farming. This project was run by collaboration between the FAO* Pesticide Management Programme, the Wageningen University and Research Centre and the National Institutions of the countries involved.

Desalinization: Soil salinization occurs when high levels of soluble salts accumulate in the root zone. Saline soils frustrate crop growth and reduce crop yield. Soil salinization is encouraged by:

  • Formation from parent materials with high salt content
  • Low rainfall in arid regions where there is insufficient water to leach salts
  • Poor soil drainage system
  • Excessive exposure of soil to salty irrigation water or chemicals

Some methods used to restore saline soils are:

  • Installing drainage systems to wash salts down the soil profile (this method is expensive and complicated).
  • Leaching out saline soils by applying water to contaminated soils to wash salts beyond the root zone.
  • Use of salt tolerant plants (halophytes) as bioremediants. Halophytes accumulate salts in their shoots and other aerial plant parts. Examples include Allenrolfea occidentalis (iodine bush), Salicornia bigelovii (dwarf saltwort), Panicum virgatum (switch grass), Sesuvium portulacastrum (sea purslane).
  • Application of gypsum (calcium sulphate dehydrate) to sodic soils. Sodic soils have high content of sodium chloride. Gypsum mixed into the layers of sodic soils replaces sodium with calcium, reducing the sodium level.





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Our cities are filled with scavengers who scout for recyclables wastes for collection. These men and women make a living from picking scraps; they are semi-illiterates and most can use mobile handsets. They operate a flexible method of renewable waste collection, though profit driven. Bulks of renewable waste retrieval from far to near places are done by them. Majority of people call them scavengers.

Image Credit: Pulitzer Center

What exactly do they have to work with? Metal carts which have the ability to pick-up 30-40kg of waste. They limit their activities to public spaces and seldom venture in private quarters. Let’s assume the amount of recyclable waste picked by fifty scavengers in a Nigerian urban city totals 1500kg daily, which makes it 547,500kg in a year. This can go a long way to make huge difference. Unfortunately, the major hindrance facing this type of waste collection is getting the right location of waste products within a short time-frame.

Image Credit: Pulitzer Center

It will be interesting to note that Nigeria with over 100 million mobile users, high-presence of major IT hubs, impressive numbers of start-ups focused on building mobile apps and arrays of service provider giants, cannot boast of a single mobile app to solve the problem of waste that the scavengers are facing.

I believe that if we apply information technology to waste retrieval, it will definitely bring a different approach to the way scavengers locate waste. Availability of a waste collection app, which allows users to log in descriptive details and quantity of recyclables wastes around them which are then matched to scavengers within the vicinity in other to create an easy waste collection channel, would make a great impact in the waste retrieval process.


Also, majority of Nigerians are embracing the “reuse” and “recycle” gospel and waste recycling is gaining momentum among various households which also makes the app useful for individuals and corporate organisations who would love to notify scavengers, recycling companies or waste retrieving authority about their wastes.

This approach can help to scale up the impact of recycling and it would have a visible impact on how we manage waste. I believe this could be a different approach in waste recycling rather than re-inventing the wheel.

Author Bio:

Okechukwu Orakwue,

Medical Doctor and Environmentalist