Wecyclers is a crowdsourced recycling platform that operates in the slums of Lagos, Nigeria. By developing a fleet of mobile collection centers on bicycles ("wecycles") and using a points system for participants, wecyclers inspires urban communities to take action against waste by incentivizing residents to collect recyclable materials. As wecyclers sells the collected materials to the local recycling industry, it uses the revenue to purchase goods, such as clean drinking water and cellphone minutes, that residents can obtain with their points.
What inspired you to get involved with this work?
Bilikiss: In Lagos, I have family members who live in slums, and I’ve seen up close the degradation they experience. These degraded living conditions diminish human potential. I left my corporate job because I needed to invest myself in something with a bigger purpose. I wanted to find an antidote to the crippling poverty I see in my country. After commencing the pilot and seeing firsthand the impact we have had on the community through the waste we have collected, the jobs we have created and most importantly, the awareness we have been able to raise on recycling, I feel even more energized and committed to this work. I have now realized that it is up to entrepreneurs like me to kick-start the engine of prosperity for my country by creating jobs and by providing a sorely needed service.
What impact have you achieved in Lagos?
Alex: We launched our pilot over the summer, which was a success by all accounts with over 2,000 subscribers and over 27 tons of waste collected and sold. We have built 11 wecycles and plan to build another 94 by the end of 2013. We have developed strong relationships with three major recyclers in Lagos who are repeat buyers of our material. The Lagos Waste Management Authority and the Lagos government consider our pilot a success and are working to help us roll it out throughout Lagos. We have also developed strategic relationships with two consumer packaged goods companies who have a shared interest in taking recyclable waste out of communities and into recycling value chains.
How did the PSC play a role in your work?
Alex: The PSC has been tremendously instrumental in getting us to where we are. In fact, we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish so much without them. Their financial and moral support have propelled us forward. We got an initial $1,000 grant from the PSC, which we used to carry out initial research in Lagos. After we had validated the idea, we entered the IDEAS Global Challenge and won the 2012 Yunus Challenge. After we began our pilot, we got an additional grant from the PSC in the form of follow-on funds. The staff at the PSC has been exceptionally helpful and supportive, providing us with advice, moral support and helpful connections when we first moved to Lagos. We are very grateful for the PSC and are proud that MIT has such a wonderful resource for its students.
How has this work had a personal impact on you?
Bilikiss: It has given me a deep sense of confidence in my ability, it has also taught me humility and the importance of helping others. I am very grateful for all we have been able to achieve and thankful to those who helped us along the way.
Bilikiss Adebiyi MBA '12, CEO
Alexandra Fallon MBA '12, CSO