Nigeria’s Innovative Solution to Tyre Waste: A Leap towards Sustainability

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By Emem Ekanem

In the heart of Nigeria, a groundbreaking initiative is reshaping the narrative on waste management, particularly the staggering issue of used tyre disposal. As the world grapples with the annual disposal of one billion tyres globally, Nigeria has become a focal point for sustainable waste practices. The tyre recycling project, initiated in 2018, is not just about a company’s efforts; it is a collective step towards aligning with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and mitigating the environmental impact of tyre waste.

Walk through the streets of Nigeria for just five minutes, and you are likely to encounter at least ten discarded tyres, strewn across drainages and street corners. The situation prompted Managing Director Ifedolapo Runsewe to address the waste problem with a straightforward approach – tyre recycling.

This tyre recycling endeavour has successfully repurposed over 400,000 tyres since its inception, diverting them from the four billion currently occupying landfills worldwide. The focus of this initiative is not just on the company’s achievements but on the broader environmental implications of tyre waste.

As part of their commitment to waste reduction, the project has outlined key areas for development in the coming year, touching on expansion into steel recycling, comprehensive training programs for youth, women, and the unemployed, strategic collaborations with stakeholders, and an ambitious plan to recycle one million tyres by the second quarter of the year. These objectives align seamlessly with SDGs, emphasizing the broader impact on society and the environment.

The tyre recycling process itself involves crushing tyres into small fragments, which are then combined with a bonding agent. This process transforms waste into various products such as paving bricks, floor tiles, and flip flops. The versatility of tyres, encompassing rubber, steel, and fiber, adds a layer of complexity to the initiative, turning waste into valuable resources.

One standout product is the rubber paving stone, priced at approximately sixty dollars for a set of 40 units. The emphasis here is not just on the company’s pricing strategy but on the extended durability of these products in comparison to conventional alternatives. These eco-friendly items are making their mark in prominent Nigerian cities like Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt, altering the visual landscape while addressing the critical issue of waste.

However, challenges persist, and the initiative is not blind to them. Bolanle Emmanuel, the Oyo state coordinator for the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, highlights transportation issues hindering the efficient movement of raw materials. Her proposed solution involves replicating recycling centers in different communities, optimizing the recycling process and addressing logistical challenges.

Beyond the numbers and company-centric details, the tyre recycling initiative stands as a testament to environmental stewardship. The project claims to have successfully averted over 8,100 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions since its inception, contributing to global efforts to combat climate change.

Eid Zouki, a construction engineer who engaged in the project for a school flooring solution, emphasizes the broader impact of repurposing materials that would typically contribute to air pollution through incineration. Zouki envisions a global shift towards environmental consciousness, advocating for the widespread adoption of sustainable materials, recycling practices, and the efficient utilization of discarded materials.

The vision extends beyond Nigeria, with hopes that this trend will influence other regions in Africa, contributing to a comprehensive global approach to waste management and environmental sustainability.

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