How Scrapays Uses USSD To Help Nigerians Value Waste

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How Scrapays uses USSD to help Nigerians value waste

Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, faces many urban challenges, including uncollected trash. Local waste collection methods are still inadequate, especially in rural areas. Also, most Nigerians do not properly collect and dispose of their waste.

In Lagos, for example, where trash volume grows by 15,000 tons daily, only 40% of waste is collected and recycled. The rest litters the streets and clogs open drains, including recyclables.

Trash-for-cash initiatives have sprung up in Nigeria in recent years, seeking to address widespread waste issues by rewarding Nigerians while supplying recycling plants with needed materials. Scrapays, founded by Boluwatife Arewa, Tope Sulaimon, and Olumide Ogunleye, all FUT Akure graduates (FUTA).

This project began when Tope, Olumide and I were still FUTA undergraduates, Arewa told TechCabal. “As geoscience students, we recognized the problem and devised a solution. Initially called Panti (Yoruba for waste), we joined a national program during our senior year.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, faces many urban challenges, including uncollected trash. Local waste collection methods are still inadequate, especially in rural areas. Also, most Nigerians do not properly collect and dispose of their waste.

In Lagos, for example, where trash volume grows by 15,000 tons daily, only 40% of waste is collected and recycled. The rest litters the streets and clogs open drains, including recyclables.

Trash-for-cash initiatives have sprung up in Nigeria in recent years, seeking to address widespread waste issues by rewarding Nigerians while supplying recycling plants with needed materials. Scrapays, founded by Boluwatife Arewa, Tope Sulaimon, and Olumide Ogunleye, all FUT Akure graduates (FUTA).

This project began when Tope, Olumide and I were still FUTA undergraduates, Arewa told TechCabal. “As geoscience students, we recognized the problem and devised a solution. Initially called Panti (Yoruba for waste), we joined a national program during our senior year.

Scrapays is a Nigerian startup that uses technology to create a decentralized recycling ecosystem.

“The company has changed, but the ideology has not,” Arewa said.

How does Scrapays work?

Scrapays' decentralized model combines recycling and technology. It serves two types of users: waste generators and recyclers.

People, businesses, and organizations that produce recyclable waste daily and store it for long periods before requesting pickup through Scrapays' online or offline channels (USSD shortcode *347*477#, mobile app, and website).

There are also mobile collectors who respond to on-demand waste recovery requests from local waste producers. The group has portable IoT-enabled scales, customized carts (which they get upon registration and pay for over nine months), and a designated app.

The nearest Scrapays collector receives and accepts the waste producer's pick-up request via the app. The digital scales weigh the sorted waste items and send the weight (in kilograms) and monetary value to the mobile app.

Then there are agents who store recyclables retrieved by collectors. Businesses and individuals can sign up as agents and earn money for every kilogram of material stored on their empty spaces. Arewa calls it “AirBnB for recyclables.”

“Like Uber made driving a profession or side hustle for some, Scrapays provides a platform for people who are already in recycling businesses or want to get into recycling,” he said.

“Our apps let collectors and agents manage their accounts, including Wallet transfers, collector and agent mapping, and account funding.”

These materials are then sold to several local companies that turn them into finished products. Some companies make tissue paper from waste paper, while others recycle glass, metal, copper, and aluminum.

Recycling waste pays off

From the producers to its partners, Scrapays operates on a revenue-sharing model where all stakeholders in the value chain earn commission per kilogram recovered.

Waste producers are paid in mobile wallets, which can be redeemed for cash or transferred directly to their accounts. To buy airtime or shop at Scrapays' partner stores.

Collectors receive a 19% commission on every kilogram of recovered recyclables. Agents earn 11% per kg of waste received and verified.

Recycling in Nigeria

In Nigeria, unregistered SMEs dominate the billion-dollar recycling sector, collecting and processing most recyclable waste.

Scrapays' platform helps these unorganized players manage their finances, improve waste collection by reducing human interference, and reduce supply chain losses.

Over two million of these businesses exist in Lagos alone. “We help them control recyclable material recovery while creating self-managed businesses from it.”

In addition, the web platform has a list feature that acts as an online marketplace for industrial listing and trade of recyclables (plastics, metals, lead, copper aluminum paper).

“The informal guys recover and recycle 99 percent of it. Their model works, they recycle effectively and reach every corner of the country. Why not build a scalable system around it? Amen. We have simply formalised and structured informal recycling.

Scaling up the idea

Scrapays has been in operation for ten months, following a six-month trial period. About 270,000 kg of recyclable materials have been recovered from 3,000 registered waste producers in Lagos and Ogun State.

The startup's operations are funded by an angel investor's internal convertible fund, loans, and founder capital. In the coming years, Arewa has bigger plans for the startup, which will necessitate significant capital.

Scrapays aims to be in 22 Nigerian cities in 18 months, 10 African countries in 24 months, and five Southeast Asian countries in 36 months.

“This isn't just a Nigerian or African issue. Southeast Asia and Latin America face similar issues. “The ASEAN region generates the world's highest per capita MSW,” he said. “Our solution is scalable across all developing nations, and we're building it that way.”

Arewa also hopes to foster a recycling culture among Nigerians, which would significantly increase waste collection, as current recovery rates fall short of demand. This is why expanding the collection network and educating producers are crucial in the coming months.

Nigeria's population is expected to double by 2050, resulting in more solid waste and recyclable items. Scrapays' low-tech, high-impact solution is addressing health, poverty, and urban resilience issues in Africa's largest country, one city at a time.

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