PET Bottles Recycling Generates 1,800 Jobs

PET bottles recycling, a new line of business which sprang from the foods and beverages industry currently generates about 1,800 jobs across value chains — pickers, collection centres and recycling plants. PET bottles are containers made of a hydrocarbon called PolyEthyleneTerephthalate, or PET, for short.

Investigations revealed that the new industry which focuses on recycling of PET bottles, cans, crown-corks and labels, is being driven by multinational companies operating under an umbrella body called Nigerian Beverage Alliance. Its members comprise Coca-Cola Nigeria Plc, Nigerian Breweries Plc, Nestle Nigeria Plc; Nigeria Bottling Company   and Seven-Up Bottling Company Plc.

The recycling is done in partnership with Alkem Nigeria Ltd, a former textile company, which is now using its machines to recycle bottles for beverage industries. Mr. Clem Ugorji, the Association’s Secretary/ Director of Public Affairs and Communications, Coca-Cola, told  Financial Vanguard that although these companies are competing fiercely for market shares, they are also working together behind the scenes to drive the recycling economy.

“We do not want to be part of the problem of waste littering our streets, canals, instead we want to be part of the success story. We ensure that litters from our products do not constitute hazards to the business, the environment and the economy,” he said.

According to him, across Nigeria’s cities and villages, as in many other developing countries, solid waste, including PET bottles and other non-biodegradable materials, end up at dumpsites and landfills, often clogging drains and waterways, contributing to health and environmental hazards.

“In response to this challenge, in 2005,  Coca-Cola , in collaboration with Alkem Nigeria Limited, a synthetic fiber manufacturer, initiated a buyback and recycling scheme for used PET bottles, regardless of source or brand. Together, the partners launched Nigeria’s first bottles-to-fiber recycling operation. Coca-Cola  is the only player in the beverage sector that is investing in this initiative and was joined in 2009 by its bottling partner, Nigerian Bottling Company Limited.

“Coca-Cola funded the creation of the first two collection centers in Lagos, October 2005, and continues to subsidise the cost collection (buyback) to help sustain the project, which has grown to include more than 26 collection centers across 10 cities. The volume of recycled bottles has grown from 135 tons in 2005 to more than 6,200 tons in 2012, with a total of nearly 26,000 tons recycled since project inception.

“In addition to reducing litter from PET bottles, the project employs an estimated 1,800 people, with many earning more than $6 a day (about N1,200 daily, N34 ,000 monthly and over N403,000 per annum, in a country where about 70 per cent of the population lives on less than $2 a day. The synthetic fiber produced is valuable raw material that supports various local industries in producing textiles, mattresses, pillows, sofas, roofing sheets and insulation for buildings.

Coca-Cola alone has invested $1 million (about N2 billion) in waste recycling plants,” he stated.  According to him, the vision ofCoca Cola is to build an effective nationwide recycling economy that would ensure that our streets, drains and dump sites are rid of PET bottles in particular. He called on Nigerians who have money to come on board and invest in the industry because of the huge returns on investment and that 80 per cent of the 36 states lack recycling infrastructure.

An expert on recycline, Mr. Kayode Ogunbiyi, who is also the Managing Director of Resource Renewables,  said it was high time for  producers of wastes to take responsibility for recycling. In a presentation on “Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and the Producer Responsibility Organisations (PRO) , he urged the federal government to  come up with laws to regulate the industry through National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency, NESREA, adding that this is what obtained in the European Union and the USA.

However, Mrs. Miranda Amachree, Director, Inspection and Enforcement NESREA, hailed the emergence of the new industry, the brains behind it and expressed hope that it will have a huge positive impacts on the economy. Financial Vanguard spoke to some waste collectors in some parts of Lagos metropolis. It was discovered that the pickers are mostly youths from Northern parts of the country.

One of them, who gave his name as Ayuba, said he and his colleagues start work as early as 7.30 am to pick the plastic bottles and cans from different locations and even buy some from people at N5 per bottle depending on the litres.

“We pick any brands of PET bottles with or without cap and wrapper, ensure they are empty and free of water and sand.   At the collection centres they are weighed     in 30-50 kilograms,” he said. When asked how much they make each day, he said “N800-1,500, depending on the volume of picks. Another picker with truck loaded with four bags, said each bag contains 20-30 pet bottles and is sold for N20 per bag. He said that in a day, he makes up to N1,200.

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