In Nigeria, a country heavily reliant on revenues from its oil exports, entrepreneur Ifedolapo Runsewe has identified another type of black gold: used car tires.
She has set up Freetown Waste Management Recycle, an industrial plant dedicated to transforming old tires into paving bricks, floor tiles and other goods that are in high demand.
“Creating something new from something that will otherwise be lying somewhere as waste was part of the motivation,” Runsewe said at her factory in Ibadan. “We are able to create an entire value chain around the tires,” she said, holding a paving brick that is one of the company’s best-selling products.
Waste management in Nigeria is patchy at best. In villages, towns and cities, piles of waste are a common sight, and residents often burn trash at night for lack of a safer disposal method. Tires routinely are dumped and abandoned.
Freetown relies on scavengers who collect old tires from dumping grounds. They are paid 70 to 100 naira (17 cents to 24 cents) per tire. Some tires also are supplied directly by mechanics, such as Akeem Rasaq, who is delighted to have found a place where he can make some money from old tires.
“Most of the tires end up in public drainage clogging up the drain, but things have changed,” he said at his roadside workshop.
Freetown started operations in 2020 with just four employees. Growth has been so rapid that the workforce has jumped to 128. So far, more than 100,000 tires have been recycled into material such as speed bumps and soft paving for playgrounds.