Friday Oku is the President of the National Union of Scrap and Waste Collectors of Nigeria. They are into waste collection from plastics, metals, cartons, ceramics, glass etc. They have been argued to be one of the most important units of recycling however the least recognized or appreciated. Collectors, Sorters, and Aggregators are the different roles within waste collection before providing the appropriate product to the off-takers. Waste collectors have been in existence for decades however the focus in earlier times was on metals but with the global change towards recycling, there has been an increase in the collection of plastic in recent years. The Association of Waste Pickers was set up in 2011 and Friday Oku became president in 2020 after they got officially recognized by the state government.
Despite being recognized, the association still faces challenges. One of the challenges was making the association function as a proper organisation. Friday, the leader had difficulty in leading as the association was disjointed and lacked union. Another challenge was bringing waste collectors together because most of them preferred to be solo rather than part of an association. Other challenges faced by the association were inadequate business knowledge for the waste pickers, lack of digital skills, health insurance, and poor record- and bookkeeping.
GIZ-SEDIN in the bid to develop the local economy through the recycling value chain, identified the association as an important partner, having worked with them since 2021. “GIZ is our number one partner as waste pickers,” Friday says. GIZ provided various capacity-building measures to the association including leadership training, organizational development, digital literacy, and grant sourcing. These trainings were provided to members of the association to improve their productivity.
The association has recorded results due to GIZ-SEDIN intervention and capacity building. These include;
- A proper database for the wastes brought in, sorted, aggregated, and provided to off-takers.
- Separation of labour; “we have different people responsible for different tasks such as sorting and picking. Before now, everyone does everything.”
- Using digital tools such as WhatsApp, virtual meetings are now a norm within the association.
- Improved organisational structure within the association.
The waste pickers are still growing, and more youths are getting involved. Some wastes cannot be recycled however they still pick them to make the environment cleaner. With recycling being an integral part of sustainability, waste picking is one of the most important steps in the value chain. Friday is constantly encouraging people to use recyclable products, he is determined to create more awareness around waste picking and the importance of recycling in his local community.
Recycling Value Chain
The SEDIN programme is committed to supporting Nigeria’s efforts in improving and scaling the recycling ecosystem by enhancing access to finance and business services, strengthening entrepreneurial and managerial skills, and ultimately addressing key barriers, gaps, and challenges along the plastic waste recycling value chain in Lagos State. This is steered towards sustaining the productivity and capacity of the plastic recycling ecosystem in boosting economic growth and income channels for households and communities, especially for women and youth.
GIZ is our number one partner as waste pickers
– Friday Oku