By: Mof’Oluwawo O Mojolaoluwa
When I started the waste nylon supply business over eight years ago, I never knew I was on my way into wealth. I was just yet another jobseeker trying out something new and a tad belittling (or so I thought).
I come from a family that celebrates the dignity of labour and so after a year’s fruitless search for a white collar job, I began to look in another direction. I had attended a conference on youth empowerment where the speaker had been talking about doing whatever one’s hands find to do and doing it well. I quote him thus, ‘’The essence of being an entrepreneur is the ability to discover opportunity and act on it promptly’’.
Since it was a one day training session, I was not too hopeful that I could learn much in a few hours that would bring me lasting gain. I had gone with my credentials however hoping to meet a top executive or two whom I could approach with my problem of joblessness and probably hand my credentials, using that opportunity to get myself the long sought after white collar job. So when the speaker opened with a quote on opportunity, I congratulated myself for being in the right place.
Was I disappointed? Big time. You see for the training classes proper, I ended up in a session on how to convert waste to wealth. Waste to Wealth! I repeat for emphasis. I immediately began to reprove myself for bothering at all. Even the trainer by my summation did not look like she could be of much use to my neatly filed credentials. But hey, I was not one to leave in the middle of a programme so I was resigned to my fate and stayed on.
You know how they say that we find what we’re looking for in the most unusual of places? That was exactly my experience in the days that followed. I found myself thinking a great deal about the things I’d heard the trainer talk about so passionately. She’d talked about packing dirt from people’s houses to the public incinerator for money, packing used polythene and recycling it, recycling of waste papers and a whole lot of other waste to wealth conversion opportunities.And after much perturbation, I took a step which turned out to be one in the right direction.
We are surrounded by matter in this world. Matter in simple words, is anything that has weight and occupies space. Wood,nylon,paper, plastic,fabric…All are matter and matter is indestructible, it can only be transformed from one form to the other. This is what holds in the waste polythene recycling business. The waste nylon is transferred from waste to profitable raw materials through recycling.
Recycled polythene has numerous uses. They can be converted into raw materials that will in turn be used in manufacturing end products like flip-flops, plastic water tanks, disposable plates, poly bags and polythene sheets needed by packing/bagging companies, for use in building water-proof foundations and so on. Polythene rain sheets can also be sewn together and used to build shelters on farm sites. Agricultural companies use the polythene sheets for bagging animal feeds and fertilizers!
This business is divided into two segments: the supplying segment and the recycling segment. I started out as a supplier and with my work cloths and boots, went round gathering polythene waste into large sacks, stacked them up at a placeand got a van to help transport them to recycling plants or the plants’ waste collection joint on designated days after which I am paid per kilogram. Therefore, the more the waste, the higher the pay.
A good number of jobseekers are quick to assert that there is no job and sometimes, this blinds them from discovering the myriads of opportunities within and around. J.F Kennedy said,‘’do not think of what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country’’. The essence of this quote can sometimes belost in its triteness. How about this, assume and concede that you are your country, then think of what you can do for yourself. Most people would shy away from this kind of job considering it belittling. But don’t we all say,“shit money no dey smell’’? In other words, if you make money packing dirt, it does not make the money dirty! All you need is the creativity and courage to go.
When I started the supply business, I had no idea who I was going to supply, I just started to gather waste polythene and stack them up day after day. Then one day, I stumbled upon the contact of the youth empowerment conference trainer while looking through the many training and seminar packages lying on my table. I contacted her immediately and the rest, as they say, is history.
Every business has its own risk no doubt but an entrepreneur need not fear reasonable risks, for being a risk bearer, launching out with boldness and great efforts into new ventures; taking initiative and being creative is what enterprise is all about.
Here the challenge was getting recycling plants willing to employ my services for a reasonable fee. To my surprise, some of the recyclers had more than enough suppliers! However, I kept on gathering and stacking waste polythene. And no, it was not much fun in the early days. I had to go from door to door going through their garbage for waste polythene. I went to parties and picked waste packaged water sachets and food wraps afterwards. Sometimes I met a friend or relation while at work who thought it was such a demeaning thing to do for a living but I was resolute. So it was that after about a year, I was permanently signed to some recyclers as a supplier and was making a steady income.
Waste polythene recycling is a way of preserving the environment. It is not all about the money. Polythene is a non biodegradable matter and so the best way of preventing it from wreaking havoc in the environment is by recycling. Getting them out of our environment into the recycling process is my way of contributing to environmental development.When people burn used polythene, it contributes to global warming and the depletion of the ozone layer because the carbon produced escapes into the atmosphere.
At some point I began to think of creating jobs for youths who were now in my old shoes and before long, I had four men and a lady on my pay roll. We extended our areas of coverage, we sensitized people on the need to dispose their refuse the right way and provided customized waste disposal bins strictly for used polythene.After five years in the business, it was time to go into recycling proper. By now I had enough capital and should I need a loan,had become credit worthy.I launched into full scale polythene recycling.
Today, I make almost half a billion as my gross annual income. I have recycling plants in four states of the federation and suppliers in twenty four states with a total staff strength of one thousand five hundred. I support my family well and I’m contributing to the development and preservation of the ecosystem. I have helped change the mindset and lifestyle of many people as regards used polythene disposal. Nowadays when I speak at youth empowerment forums, I chant the same old ‘opportunity’ mantra but in a different way- opportunity won’t always come on platters of gold. Some will come on iron trays and clay boards. Just be sure to recognize them when they come because most times, big things come in small packages.