Impacty SpotOn!: Bilkiss Adebiyi-Abiola
Called the trash collector in many quarters, Bilkiss Adebiyi-Abiola is an MIT- trained whiz. She grew up in Lagos Nigeria, moved to the United States at the age of 17. While in school, chasing her dreams, she had to do a second-year project which made her venture into thinking up ideas to help low-income communities. Her thoughts soon took her back home where she had to think about waste management and how to curb the environmental hazards as a result of poor waste management.
Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) reported that Lagos generates a massive 12,000 metric tons of waste daily. Additionally, only about 40% of that amount of waste was properly disposed.
This discovery, backed by unbeatable passion, led Bilkiss to take a journey of purpose back home to the city of Lagos.
She came back home and presented the idea to family and friends who encouraged its execution. The idea transcended beyond being a mere idea to a problem-solving strategy as Bilkiss saw how the improperly disposed trash clogged drainages and caused harm to the environment and to residents in highly affected areas.
Bilkiss went back to the States and presented the rather impossible-to-execute project to the MIT who readily thought it over and saw that it was good because of how Bilkiss pitched it to them. She also entered the idea in competitions.
After graduation, she moved back to Nigeria with her husband in 2012. Bilkiss came back, this time as an executioner, literally, to get rid of environmental pollution caused by poor disposal of wastes.
Bilkiss had some challenges with the project at first as she was now married with a kid at that time. It was challenging but it makes her a ready example of women-power to outdo her seeming inabilities. Her company, Wecyclers, now has workers
StartUpNg records that Wecyclers uses low-cost custom made cargo tricycles which they call ‘Wecycles’ to collect a large portion of the wastes, especially in areas where normal vehicles are unable to ply. The company’s effective structure makes waste collection efficient and rewarding — something many households are keen to jump on.
Wecyclers has grown from a mere waste collection business to something of a movement.
Since the inception of Wecyclers, over 5,000 Nigerian households have been beneficiaries and nearly 1000 tonnes of waste have been collected and recycled.
Wecyclers has also been responsible for mass employment of people in low income areas.
Wecyclers has also partnered with the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC; makers of Coca-Cola products) and GlaxoSmithKline — in dealing with all the plastic wastes by these two companies which account for the bulk of the plastic pollution in Lagos State.
Through her company, Bilkiss has garnered so many reputable awards and honours including the King Baudouin International Development Prize in 2018/19.
In 2018 Abebiyi stood down as CEO of Wecyclers to be become the Managing Director of the Lagos State Parks and Gardens Agency (LASPARK), a role well fitting for her.
Bilkiss holds dear the words that “one man’s waste is another man’s treasure”.