In front of an audience of more than 1,000 people at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen, Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola, CEO of the Nigerian initiative Wecyclers, received the global award which honours innovative, sustainable solutions and ideas.
Wecyclers won the Sustainia Award for its response to local waste issues in Lagos, where only 40 per cent of the city’s garbage is collected. Its pedal-powered recycling solution enables low-income communities to make money from waste piling up in their streets. By deploying a fleet of cargo bicycles to collect and recycle un-managed waste in Nigeria’s capital Lagos, Wecyclers allows families to exchange garbage for consumer goods via an SMS-based point system.
The World Bank estimates that only 10 per cent of waste in Africa is collected. More than 5,000 households have signed up so far and there are plans to extend the initiative to other cities throughout Nigeria. Recycling companies purchase Wecyclers’ sorted waste for reprocessing for products as mattresses, pillows, trash bags and such like.
Making a real difference
“We are so overwhelmed to win the Sustainia Award. I have always thought of our initiative as low-tech but high-impact. We focused on building a technology that would solve the unique problems of the communities we operate in. I believe that many other cities can help their communities in similar ways and provide healthier and cleaner surroundings for their citizens. This award gives us a great opportunity to share our work,” said Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola.
“The threats from climate change are real and they are here. But so are the solutions. I am very inspired by this year’s Sustainia Award winner, Wecyclers. They show us that communities can create local solutions to waste and recycling issues, which are not only more sustainable but also improve public health and create new jobs and businesses. By coming together and acting in new ways, we can create positive and sustainable change in our communities and inspire cities around the world to do the same,” said Arnold Schwarzenegger, former governor of California and Chair of the Sustainia Award.
The award is initiated by international sustainability alliance Sustainia and leading Scandinavian think tank Monday Morning in collaboration with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s initiative Regions20 and the UN Global Compact. Behind Sustainia is also a wide range of world-leading companies including DNV GL.
“We are proud partners of the Sustainia Initiative,” commented Bjørn K. Haugland DNV GL Group Chief Sustainability Officer. “The partners behind Sustainia and the annual award represent a multi-stakeholder collaboration from philanthropic foundations, civil society and the corporate world. Together, we are committed to shape a new approach to the sustainability agenda centered on existing solutions as tools for change. The Wecycle solution is a leading example and we congratulate them on deservedly winning the 2014 Sustainia Award.”
“Solutions to combat climate change are not only high-tech innovations focused on cutting emissions, creating infrastructure or efficiency. To successfully solve the variety of challenges, we need variety in our solutions as well. Wecyclers is an example of a solution that empowers its community to lead healthier, wealthier and more sustainable lives. It offers very clear incentives for all players to get on board and that’s exactly what can help this solution succeed,” added Laura Storm, Director of Sustainia.
Solutions to the world’s climate threats
Together with nine other leading innovations from seven countries, the Nigerian company described its solution on stage at the annual Sustainia Award Ceremony, an event celebrating innovations across 10 sectors such as food, fashion, transportation and buildings. The yearly Copenhagen ceremony showcases readily available solutions, particularly relevant this year as the global spotlight is on the Danish capital, where more than 1000 climate scientists, business leaders and experts are currently gathered awaiting the concluding Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report from a seven-year study of the impacts of climate change.
“The Sustainia Award Ceremony highlights solutions to many of the grave challenges we are facing these years. Sustainability is not solely a matter of bringing down emissions. It is also a question of using our natural resources more intelligently and creating healthier lives for ourselves. The showcased solutions provide us with tangible sustainability alternatives for our cities, homes, wardrobe, transportation and much more,” concluded Connie Hedegaard, EU Commissioner for Climate Action and member of the Sustainia Award Committee.