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Kano scavengers make fortunes in plastic recycling

Eking out a living through scavenging is as old as many business activities in the ancient city of Kano. Thousands of people in the chain…

Eking out a living through scavenging is as old as many business activities in the ancient city of Kano. Thousands of people in the chain of the industry are engaged as either part-time or full-time employees, making fortunes from public waste. Daily Trust Saturday reports.


Aminu Naganye & Zahraddeen Yakubu Shuaibu (Kano)

From the children in the streets (almajirai) to women and men, scavenging has become an established business enterprise that not only provides means of livelihood but also contributes to sanitising the environment via clearing drainages, decongesting gutters, picking from refuse sites and subtly contributing to preventing flooding in Kano cities.

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Experts have said that plastic waste significantly contribute to climate change and global warming when they decompose in the oceans after a long period of time, releasing greenhouse gases. Thus, they have counseled that establishing a cyclical economy where plastic waste can be recycled and reused is crucial to tackling the challenge of plastic pollution.

Daily Trust Saturday learnt that the scavengers supply plastic trash to small and medium enterprises in Kano.

Those who spoke with our correspondents said the business had given them a reliable means of livelihood.

Muzammil Sani, a teenage almajiri in the Dan-agundi area of Kano Municipal, said scavenging gave him the means to buy whatever he wants.

“I search refuse sites and gutters for plastic bottles and nylons, as well as garbage, trash and other materials from houses, which I sell to earn money. I make from N500 and above daily,” he said


Mubarak Hamza said he usually engaged in the business after Qur’anic school hours in Dorayi. 

Also, Kabiru Abubakar, 35, said he set up a spot in the Kwakwaci area of Fagge Local Government, where he not only survives through the business but engages young boys. 

“Young boys pick the plastics and nylons from refuse sites or gutters and sort them out based on categories. We measure them on a scale.

 “We buy one kilogram of big plastic bottles at N50, and N30 for smaller ones. A kilogram of sachet water nylons costs N20 while those that are strong, like that of soft drink, is N70. On a daily basis, I buy from 200 to 300 kilograms of sachet water nylon. For the rubber plastic bottle, I buy 50 to 70 kilograms daily,” Kabiru said.

He said he usually washed and cleaned them before taking them to industrial areas to sell.

“I sell some in the Sharada industrial area. I also take some to Dakata, and some, especially sachet water nylons, to Viva company. You make a reasonable gain when you gather a lot. In fact, you can’t even settle the transport fare if you gather it little by little.

“In this business, I survive with my family, parents and even assist others. I am married with two wives and three children. I own a house and a motorcycle through this business,” he said.

Another scavenger, Rabiu Ayuba, whose business is in Kurna, said he moved round Kano city in search of materials that enable him earn a living.

“Honestly, I thank God for this business. I also go out to scavenge, as well as buy from suppliers, especially almajirai. But you don’t get the same thing every day. Sometimes we get a lot and sometimes little. We scout throughout the city, going from one refuse site to another. From this business, I do everything and even spend on my girlfriend,” Ayuba said.

Women are also not left out of this male-dominated business. Hajiya Maryam Isyaku said she inherited scavenging business from her mother from childhood. She said although she would not pick from trash sites herself, she would buy from young boys and girls and resell to industries.

She said, “This has been my business from childhood. I used to see my mom do it, and I later embraced it. I buy from young boys and almajirai. I buy waste plastics worth N5,000 to N6,000 daily. I wash and clean them with detergent and take them for sale. I take it to Jakara, Kurmi, and sometimes, Dawanau to sell.”

For Jamilu Mukhtar Magashi, who owns a recycling company in the Sharada industrial area and has been in the business for over seven years, this has been his major source of income. He said the scavengers, although not regarded as important personalities in the society, contributed immensely to the economy.

According to Magashi, the recycling business has different stages that involve a series of activities, from crushing to recycling, up to injection, where you would produce whatever you intend to produce.

He said he often produced buckets, cups, kettles, plates and many other things from the crushed plastic waste.

“We appreciate the scavengers very well as they contribute to the success of this business. They normally bring scraps of rubber here or we go and meet them wherever they are. We can only work with what they bring. A kilo of rubber usually goes for N100 or N110, depending on the market at a particular time.

“We produce anything that has to do with rubber here, such as plates, buckets, gallons and many other things. Most of what we buy are scrap gallons, jerry-cans and so on. From there, we follow a series of steps to process them into what we want. There are stages.

“The first stage is to put the scrap rubbers into a crusher. You will wash the crushed materials if they are dirty, but if they are clean you leave them. The next stage is to recycle them, under which a heater will melt them. The last state is injection, where you will put the colour you want and produce anything of your choice,” he explained.

He said that in Kano, there were over 100 recycling companies like his own, and most of them are using what the scavengers gather from various dumping sites from the state and other places.

Another recycler in Sharada, Usman Mahy, said he usually bought empty soft drink bottles from scavengers, compress them and send to Lagos for processing into fabrics and other sewing materials. He also buys scrap rubbers and send to companies in Lagos.

He said, “In Lagos they use soft drink bottles in making fabrics like textile yards and so on. Here in Kano we don’t have machines that will fully process them. The only thing we can do is to compress them and send. Sometimes it is better to send them there without compressing as it is more profitable.”

Speaking on the importance of scavengers to the business, he said, “If we were to generate the bottles or rubbers, it would take us a long time. It is easier for the scavengers to go round the nooks and crannies of the town to get them. They sell to dealers in kilograms while we buy from them in tonnes.”

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