top of page

Where there is a will... (cue in the mighty plastic bottle).

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

There is a school in Lagos, Nigeria, that allows pupils pay for their school fees with empty plastic bottles. Though this initiative was loudly lauded, its easy to mistake it as a poverty-mitigation intervention. Meanwhile, the principles on which the project runs on offer a masterclass for success to the global solid waste management industry. Here are three worth considering:

1. No redundant app or tech involved: When it comes to planting conviction in people's heart, tech should not be the starting point, rather, the needs of people should be. Tech is best embraced when it enables a dream and not when it is the dream itself. Many times, the momentum of improved waste sorting/collection initiatives fail because the tech it revolved around (whether it be monetisation apps or smart trash bins) was, frankly, introduced mostly for modernisation sake. And so, the 'WHY' easily gets lost on the users after a short time.

2. The target market is the next generation: No one needs to preach to those kids why those plastic bottles should be picked up because their future (of the children) literarily depends on them. So with those fresh pair of eyes for waste, and their teachable spirit, it would take little or nothing to go a step further and show these kids how they can ensure the future of this planet in the same way.

3. No exclusivity: The school children need no special permission to pick up the plastic bottles- perhaps because the quantity they would collect was small enough to go undetected by the radar of the local solid waste collection regulators. So, these children could operate unhindered and rewarded purely on how many bottles they could lay their hands on. Infact, they could pay the school fees of their friends if they made enough money to. This merit-based system that is open to all is often lacking in many cities, where private actors are licensed by the state and the informal sector (particularly waste pickers) is completely cut off. Meanwhile, to cripple a problem this big, you really need ALL OF US. Sure, with multiple actors comes the need for regulation, but really, the only regulation you need for something as simple as waste collection/sorting is to ensure safe practices and tax remmittance.

Children using plastic bottles to pay their school fees
School children carrying recyclables

Image source:


bottom of page