Cleaning Up Lagos, One Bottle at a Time; SWCL’s Recycling Revolution Transforming Nigeria Waste Management Landscape

By Mercy Olubukola Alao

Cleaning Up Lagos, One Bottle at a Time; SWCL's Recycling Revolution Transforming Nigeria Waste Management Landscape
Omoh Alokwe

Omoh Alokwe is one of the recently recognized Top 50 remarkable founders by MSME Africa during this year’s World MSME Day 2023, she is a seasoned sustainability expert with years of experience in waste recycling, environmental audit reporting, and environmental impact assessment. She also doubles as the Co-founder of Street Waste Company Limited, a successful recycling company that has revolutionized the way waste is managed in communities.  In this chat with  Mercy Alao, Omoh shares her journey in waste management and sustainability with us while also providing tips for every aspiring waste and sustainability entrepreneur.

What inspired you to start Street Waste Company Limited and focus your business on recycling, waste management, and social enterprise?

In July 2015, I experienced a devastating flood caused by plastic-clogged canals near my home (Badore Lagos, Nigeria). The resulting property damage and loss left me feeling helpless and frustrated. During my master’s program in Environmental Management, I gained a deeper understanding of the harm our actions can cause to the environment. 

As an entrepreneur with a master’s degree in environmental management from the University of Lagos Akoka, I witnessed the devastating impact of this issue on our community. The overflowing canals not only posed environmental risks but also affected public health. 

Recognizing the urgent need to address waste management challenges such as plastic pollution and its consequences, I channelled my knowledge and passion into creating a business focused on recycling, waste management, and social enterprise.

By focusing on recycling, we aim to reduce the amount of plastic waste in the canals, preventing further flooding. Our waste management practices prioritize proper disposal and recycling techniques to minimize environmental harm. Additionally, as a social enterprise, we strive to create job opportunities and empower local communities.

Through innovation, collaboration, and a deep commitment to sustainability, Street Waste Company Limited strives to be a catalyst for change in Lagos, driving towards cleaner waterways and a greener future.

How does your passion for the environment and sustainability influence Street Waste’s work?

My passion for the environment and sustainability profoundly influences Street Waste’s work. As an entrepreneur who personally witnessed the devastating effects of flooding caused by plastic-clogged canals in Lagos, Nigeria, I am deeply committed to making a positive impact on our environment. My master’s degree in environmental management from the University of Lagos Akoka further reinforces my understanding of the challenges at hand.

At Street Waste, we view our business not just as a means to profit but as a vehicle for environmental change. We are driven by the belief that sustainable waste management and recycling are crucial for combating plastic pollution and preserving our ecosystem. Our work is guided by the principles of environmental responsibility, innovation, and community engagement.

Through Street Waste, I aim to raise awareness about the importance of reducing plastic waste and creating a circular economy. By combining my passion for the environment with practical solutions, we strive to be at the forefront of environmental initiatives, promoting a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable future for Lagos and beyond.

Every decision we make at Street Waste is guided by our commitment to environmental stewardship. We continually seek out partnerships, technologies, and strategies that align with our vision for a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable future.

How do you balance running a business with your other sustainability initiatives and consulting work?

Balancing running a business with my sustainability initiatives and consulting work is essential to me as an entrepreneur. I believe that integrating these aspects creates a more holistic and impactful approach.

Firstly, I allocate dedicated time and resources to each aspect of my work. While Street Waste Company Limited remains my primary focus, I ensure that my sustainability initiatives and consulting work receive ample attention. This involves effective time management and setting clear priorities and KPIs.

Secondly, I leverage synergies between the different aspects of my work. Insights gained from consulting projects inform innovative solutions for Street Waste’s waste management strategies. Similarly, my experiences in running a business enrich my approach to sustainability initiatives.

Lastly, I build a supportive team that shares my passion for the environment. Delegating responsibilities allows me to maintain involvement in various projects without compromising efficiency.

By striking a harmonious balance, I can maximize my impact as an entrepreneur, tackling the plastic-clogged canal issue, promoting sustainability, and driving positive change in Lagos, Nigeria, and beyond.

What motivates you to continue growing Street Waste Company Limited and pursuing your sustainability goals?

Several factors motivate me to continue growing Street Waste Company Limited and pursuing our sustainability goals. Firstly, the impact we have on underserved communities is a significant driving force. Empowering these communities by providing them with monetary rewards in exchange for their recyclables not only addresses the plastic pollution problem but also creates economic opportunities, improving their livelihoods and overall well-being.

Secondly, witnessing the positive transformation in the environment. As we collect and recycle more waste, we contribute to reducing plastic pollution, improving the cleanliness of the canals, achieving sustainable development goals 1,8,12,13 and mitigating the risk of flooding in Lagos. Seeing tangible results in terms of cleaner waterways and healthier ecosystems reinforces our commitment to our mission.

In addition, the support and engagement of our team and partners are crucial motivators. Collaborating with like-minded individuals and organizations who share our passion for sustainability amplifies our impact and inspires us to push the boundaries of what we can achieve.

Finally, the global urgency to address environmental challenges propels us forward. Knowing that our work aligns with the broader goals of sustainability and contributes to a greener future strengthens our determination to grow Street Waste and continue making a positive difference in Lagos and beyond.

What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs in Nigeria who want to start businesses focused on sustainability and social impact?

To aspiring women entrepreneurs in Nigeria seeking to start businesses focused on sustainability and social impact, my advice is threefold:

Embrace Your Passion: Let your passion for sustainability and social impact guide your business idea. Identify a pressing environmental or social challenge that resonates with you, drawing from your personal experiences or academic background, like my own experience with flooding caused by plastic-clogged canals. Your passion will fuel your determination and inspire others to join your cause.

Collaborate and Build Networks: Establish connections with like-minded individuals, organizations, and local communities. Collaborative partnerships can amplify your impact and provide support in tackling complex challenges. Engage with environmental NGOs, universities, and government bodies to tap into resources and knowledge.

Adapt and Innovate: Be flexible and open to adaptation and innovation. In a rapidly changing world, staying current with sustainable practices and technology is essential. Strive to find innovative ways to address sustainability challenges, like our approach of empowering underserved communities with monetary rewards for recyclables.

Aligning your passion with purpose, fostering collaborative networks, and embracing innovation, I believe you can create meaningful and sustainable change in Nigeria, positively impacting the environment and underserved communities while empowering yourself as a successful woman entrepreneur.

What are Street Waste’s goals for growth and social impact in the next 3-5 years?

Street Waste Company Limited has ambitious goals for growth and social impact in the next 3-5 years. Our primary objectives include:

Expansion of Operations: We aim to expand our operations across Lagos and other cities in Nigeria, reaching more communities affected by plastic pollution and flooding. By establishing collection points and partnerships with local businesses and organizations, we will increase our capacity to collect and recycle a larger volume of recyclables.

Community Engagement and Empowerment: Street Waste is committed to deepening our impact in underserved communities. We will enhance our outreach efforts, engaging with community leaders and residents to raise awareness about the importance of recycling and waste management. Additionally, we will provide educational programs and training to empower community members with knowledge and skills related to sustainability.

Innovation and Technology Integration: We strive to leverage innovative technologies to optimize our waste management processes. This includes implementing smart collection systems, advanced sorting techniques, and sustainable packaging solutions. By embracing technological advancements, we aim to improve efficiency, increase recycling rates, and reduce our environmental footprint.

Advocacy and Collaboration: Street Waste recognizes the significance of collaboration and advocacy in driving systemic change. We will actively collaborate with government bodies, NGOs, and industry stakeholders to advocate for stronger environmental regulations, promote sustainable practices, and foster a supportive ecosystem for waste management and recycling.



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