How Nigeria is turning one man’s waste into another man’s treasure

RecyclePoints: rewarding a nation for smart and sustainable acts

Lagos State in southwestern Nigeria generates an average of 9,000 metric tonnes of waste every day –1,200 of that is currently being recycled. For Chioma Ukonu, Chief Operations Officer of RecyclePoints, the old idiom “One man’s waste is another man’s treasure” serves as the foundation of her business, and one that she uses to uplift her community.

Chioma is a people-oriented businesswoman and social entrepreneur who values integrity, success and family.

“I strongly believe that one has to be surrounded by people who are committed to delivering the same objectives,” she says.

Inspired by her passion, Audu Maikori – fellow social entrepreneur and host of Chivas, Win the Right Way – tracked her down to share career insights and what it means to win the right way. Chivas, Win the Right Way is a TV series on CNBC Africa, featuring Africa’s most inspiring young social entrepreneurs who run their business based on shared success and profit with purpose.

RecyclePoints operates as an incentive-based structure which collects recyclable materials from consumers and in turn rewards them with ‘points’ that they can accumulate and use to redeem or shop for household items offered through the iRecycle store. The venture was awarded the best waste and recycling innovation at the 2015 Waste and Recycling Awards.

The business supports over 8,000 locals and has changed the lives of over 100,000 people. “We have directly empowered over 1,000 people who, through our programme, now operate within the waste recycling value chain,” says Chioma. “We have over 7,000 subscribers that benefit directly from our model and this has a multiplier effect as most of these subscribers are households and major corporate institutions whose constituents are now practicing recycling as a major culture change.”

For Chioma, RecyclePoints represents more than just a successful and inclusive business model. It is working to cut down on the country’s carbon footprint and benefit environmental sustainability. The business creates employment, especially for the younger generation, as well as empowering women to become independent waste aggregators, supporting their families by selling the aggregated recyclable waste.

One of Chioma’s proudest moments was winning the Chivas “The Venture” competition in Nigeria last December, which has given her the chance to partake in the global competition happening in the US in June this year. The Venture is a global search initiative, supported by Chivas, to reward those who are using business and innovative social business ideas to create positive change.  “It was a sign that our venture can now represent Nigeria on the global stage,” she says. Chioma truly believes that with hard work and clear objectives, anyone can ‘win the right way’.

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Chivas, Win the Right Way profiles six African social entrepreneurs. This is the final episode the CNBC series which has been airing on CNBC Africa, DStv channel 410, every Wednesday since September 7, 2016.

Follow Chivas, Win the Right Way on social media: #WinTheRightWay •

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