According to the United Nations, about 1 million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute, with over half of all plastic designed to be used only once and then thrown away. In the same vein, about 8 million tonnes of plastic—bottles, packaging and other waste— enter the ocean each year. These numbers spell severe consequences for the environment and is something that should be receiving more attention than it is getting now.
To put it into proper perspective, if the current trends continue, our oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050.
Excitingly, Ayanwoye Tobi, a 21-year-old innovator in Ogbomosho wants to do something about it in Nigeria. An orphan with dyslexia, Tobi who likes to describe himself as an innovator from the incinerator discovered his special attraction to scrap materials at the age of 10 when he picked different disposed materials to build a magnetic toy car.
In his words, “based on my research, plastic items can take up to 1,000 years to decompose in landfills and plastic bottles can take 450 years or more. A team of MIT students have discovered a clever technique that uses irradiated plastic bottles to make a new concrete, that’s why I have decided to be using bottles for building structures, as I continue to study for other uses.”
I asked him about how his educational journey in Nigeria, despite having dyslexia and he responded with a smile, “It took a lot of determination from my end, but there were mentors to help”. “With the help of Dr. Misbaudeen AbdulHameed of LAUTECH; Mrs Taiwo V., Mr AbdulKabeer Ishola, Mr Elegbede Mayowa Rahman, Mr Tanko Y.B all of FGC Ogbomoso and others who retaught me like a kid, I defeated dyslexia…I have overcome obstacles that could have been a different story and I can boldly say that my growth has to do with the interest from a lot of valuable people”, he explained.
Recycling bottles is not his first effort at tackling issues that affect the environment, as in 2013, he thought about the need to make cutting grass for his fellow students easier and he designed a workable solar-powered lawnmower made from sourced local materials—it uses a rechargeable battery, so no combustion of fuel which can have harmful effect on the environment. It has a customized lock system and a headlamp make it easier to use even at night.
Tobi believes strongly in the capacity of people living with a disability or in underserved areas to positively affect society and has set his sight on building communities of people in those areas who are enthusiastic about recycling. “I want to be able to produce more young innovators, inventors, to be self-employed and create made in Nigeria products from what people call waste materials”.
For him, this is a journey and not a sprint and at Zumalo.com, we are here for this kind of stories as we beam the spotlight on innovations in emerging cities and underserved communities across Africa.