Community Champion: Uyeh Member’s Inspiring Upcycling Journey

Community Champion
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Ify Onyekwere

In an enlightening session on the Development Report Radio Show, Uyeh Member, a Sustainable Fashion Entrepreneur, captivated listeners with her inspiring journey of transforming plastic waste into valuable treasures. The episode, titled “Community Champions: Turning Waste to Treasure,” aired on June 29, 2024, on People’s 105.5FM in Abuja, Nigeria. Hosted by Ify Onyekwere, the show shed light on the innovative ways communities are addressing the pressing issue of plastic waste and turning it into profitable and sustainable ventures. Uyeh Member’s story is a testament to the power of resilience, creativity, and the global relevance of sustainable development.

The world generates over 300 million tons of plastic waste annually, with less than 10% being recycled. This staggering statistic highlights the urgent need for innovative solutions to manage plastic waste. Nigeria, with its rapidly growing population, contributes significantly to this global challenge. In this context, individuals like Uyeh Member are pioneering efforts to mitigate the environmental impact of plastic waste while empowering communities and creating economic opportunities.

Uyeh Member’s journey into the world of upcycling began in 2019 at a bootcamp organized by the Street Project Foundation. “I was drawn to plastics after the bootcamp,” she recalled. Despite facing ridicule for collecting plastics on the streets—an activity often stigmatized in Nigeria—she persevered. “People looked at me as though I had an issue because I was picking plastics from the street. But I knew what I was using it for, so it did not get to me.”

Her determination led to the co-founding of Sustainable Building Blocks, an organization dedicated to empowering disadvantaged children through upcycling. “We go to communities and find children who are at risk and train them on upcycling to build their confidence and make them believe that they can be of value,” she explained. This initiative not only addresses environmental issues but also provides these children with valuable skills and a sense of purpose.

Waste to Treasure by Uyeh Member

The process of turning plastic waste into earrings is remarkably straightforward and energy-efficient. “It does not take much time and energy, and I believe a lot of young people can make so much profit from this business,” Uyeh noted. Her business has opened doors she never imagined, including selling out at American embassies and collaborating with major organizations. Her jewellery has even graced fashion runways, and she has become a sought-after trainer, earning a living while preserving the environment.

However, the journey has not been without challenges. Uyeh faced unreasonable expectations from some communities and encountered scepticism about the efficacy of climate action. “Some people have the notion that nothing can be done to protect health and therefore see our efforts as a waste of time,” she said. Despite these obstacles, she remains undeterred. “Climate education in rural areas will go a long way in saving the planet. All hands should be on deck, and our curriculum should include climate change.

Uyeh’s story underscores the global relevance of sustainable development initiatives. As climate change continues to pose a significant threat worldwide, grassroots efforts like those led by Uyeh play a crucial role in driving change. Her work exemplifies how individual actions can have a ripple effect, inspiring others and contributing to broader environmental goals.

Her passion for upcycling has transformed it from a hobby into a viable business model, proving that sustainable practices can be both environmentally and economically beneficial. “This is more than just a hobby for me; it is a decent way to earn a living while preserving the environment,” she emphasized. By turning waste into valuable products, Uyeh is not only cleaning up the environment but also creating a sustainable livelihood.

The radio show episode featuring Uyeh Member serves as a powerful reminder of the impact of community champions in the fight against plastic waste. Her story is a beacon of hope and a call to action for others to join the movement towards a more sustainable future. As the world grapples with the challenges of plastic pollution and climate change, innovative solutions like upcycling offer a promising path forward.

Click here to read on Plastic Waste: Urgent Call for Corporate Responsibility

In conclusion, Uyeh Member’s contribution to the Development Report Radio Show highlighted the transformative power of upcycling and the importance of community-driven initiatives in addressing environmental issues. Her journey from a passionate individual to a community leader and businesswoman demonstrates that with creativity, resilience, and a commitment to sustainability, it is possible to turn waste into treasure and make a significant impact on the world.

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