According to a 2018 report by the World Bank, more than five million tonnes of waste are generated each year in Côte d’Ivoire, and this is expected to double by 2030. Less than half of the current waste is being collected and only about three per cent is being recycled, with the rest primarily ending up in open landfills or in the streets. In cities like Abidjan, plastic bottles thrown into the streets are often responsible for blocking the sewage systems, resulting in floods during the rainy season.
The start-up, Coliba, is providing a solution aimed at collecting and transforming plastic waste in Cote d’Ivoire. They are working through the entire plastic recycling value chain.
In November 2018, the Abidjan-based venture received a grant from the GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator Innovation Fund to deploy a large-scale, mobile-supported plastic recycling value chain in 10 districts of the capital city (about three million people) to collect, recycle and resell plastic waste (mainly bottles) from households and businesses.
The Coliba team collects plastic waste from households and businesses through a mobile app and a more than 40 strong team of employed collectors. In exchange for plastic waste, users receive points that can be converted into mobile internet credit, in partnership with the mobile operator MTN.
After sorting and cleaning the plastic bottles at their facilities, the team transforms the clean plastic into pellets and re-sells these pellets to local or international buyers who use them to create new goods. As Coliba now collect plastic bottles from over 3,000 monthly active users on the mobile app and recycle up to two tons of plastic a day, the start-up tackles no less than three local challenges:
- Protecting the environment by avoiding tonnes of plastic waste ending up in the natural environment;
- Creating a mindset change among the population by incentivising them to recycle; and
- Fighting unemployment by formalising the waste picking business.
The Ecosystem Accelerator programme is supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Australian Government, the GSMA and its members.