Upcycling - Wasted to Wanted

A Nigerian waste management company is turning Nigeria’s discarded waste into stunning furniture and home décor.  Pearl Recycling is creatively solving one of Nigeria’s most pressing issues – waste management.

A few years ago, Olamide Ayeni-Babajide was on a trip to the United Arab Emirates. The social entrepreneur and founder of the Nigeria-based Pearl Recycling walked into a furniture store and was immediately drawn to a home décor piece in the form of a flower.

Like many African countries, waste management in Nigeria is an enormous problem. With a population exceeding 170 million, more than 32 million tons of solid waste, is generated annually, out of which only 20 per cent to 30 per cent is collected. The rest, Ayeni-Babajide tells me, accumulates in the streets and canals of the country’s neighbourhoods and villages.

Utilising everything from tyres, bottles, newspapers, magazines, straws, and plastic cutleries to wood, unused CD tapes and even sea-shells, Pearl Recycling turns solid waste materials into objects that have value like tables, chairs, home décor and various other things to beautify homes and offices. One of the products Ayeni-Babajide says she is most proud of is their Ottoman Table. Made from recycled tyres, the object is reportedly one of the company's most popular items.

Aside from the beautiful furniture they produce from upcycled waste, Pearl Recycling also has a more altruistic mission: to use the business to alleviate poverty and to aid people – particularly uneducated, vulnerable women and girls – by bestowing upon them a skill set that can bring them an income. The organisation also employs young Nigerians to gather these waste products; simultaneously helping to curb unemployment and clean up the city.

“We create jobs in so many ways,” Ayeni-Babajide explains. “Through our trash for pay initiative, we encourage people to bring their waste into our workshop which we pay them for. And in terms of training, we are especially focused on women and girls, particularly those that are not educated. We also allow people to bring in their trash and to take some of our products at a discounted rate – which is helping the local economy.”

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