Winner announced for WasteAid’s Waste to Use Challenge in The Gambia.
Published: 26 January 2023
WasteAid’s Waste to Use Challenge was part of an initiative funded by the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) to fast-track circular economy initiatives in The Gambia. The Gambia is Africa’s smallest mainland country and has very limited waste management capacity. Open dumping and burning of waste leads to poor health, economic losses and climate emissions, and has been recognised at both local and national levels as a priority for sustainable development.
Positively, The Gambia is one of the few countries committed to meeting the Paris Agreement to keep global warming below 1.5C. Alongside reducing climate emissions, the Ministry of Environment is focused on protecting the country’s natural resources and building resilience to climate shocks such as drought and floods. Implementing circular waste and recycling initiatives such as the Waste to Use Challenge can play a significant role in preventing climate emissions, building climate resilience, and creating much-needed sustainable livelihood opportunities.
On 20th December, around 70 members of the Circular Economy Network gathered at the Sunset Beach Hotel, in Kotu to hear the pitches of the three finalists all active in the circular economy. All three initiatives were selected through a competitive process and prior to the pitch had been through a business incubation process, to help them hone their business plans and ideas. The training was complimented by one-to-one mentoring by business specialists over months leading up to the event. A huge thanks to the trainers and mentors that supported them throughout: Muhammed Danso from Startup Incubator Gambia, Mustapha J. from J Concepts, Youma Wally Ndong from GamPlus Clothing, Maurice Phillips from Sandele Foundation and Rory Dickens from Sustainable Design Studio.
Sulayman Darboe of Green Waste Initiative (GWI) was the first to present their business idea ‘Rinkoo’, a briquet made out of organic materials, an alternative to charcoal which burns for longer. GWI have established buyers at the community level as well as a product range and will be looking to expand their production capacity. Next up was African Swag Collection, led by Sainabou Gaye, who have produced a fashion range that reuses bubble wrap otherwise destined for landfill. They collect bubble wrap from trading outlets that are importing electrical equipment (packed in bubble wrap) and transform it into shower caps and aprons for use in the hair dressing and culinary trade as well as handbags and raincoats.
Finally, Plastics Recycling Gambia, led by Alieu Sowe, presented their core business. They collect up to 30 tonnes of hard plastic a month from 21 collection points, providing income for up to 21 waste collectors, and then distribute across the Greater Banjul Area. They sort, wash and grind down into plastic pellets to then sell to local plastic manufacturers.
Michelle Wilson, Director of Programmes at WasteAid, said: “It was exciting to see the quality of ideas and level of the entrants which confirms to us that grass roots organisations are key to the development of a vibrant circular economy in The Gambia. It is impossible for local government to tackle the waste and environmental crisis on their own. The ambition and drive of all our entrants, particularly given their age, the majority are under 30, is amazing to see. WasteAid will continue to support the sector through the Circular Economy Network and looks forward to see these companies flourish”
The judges unanimously decided to award the investment to Plastic Recycling Gambia due to the strength of the business case presented, the environmental impact of the organisation in saving so much plastic from waterways and dump sites, and finally the income generating potential for informal waste collectors who are part of the collection network.
Waste to Use Challenge winner, Alieu Sowe, said: “Winning this competition has boosted mine and my team’s motivation, and will help us to grow Plastics Recycling Company. Reaching 50 tonnes regrinds monthly is sufficient for a financially stable and sustainable company. Above this turnover a modest profit can be made that will be reinvested to ensure organic growth of the company, and that growth includes expanding to reach other regions.”
Anna Willetts, President of CIWM said: “We are proud to see the positive difference that CIWM funding is making to these sustainable circular initiatives in The Gambia. As part of a delegation visiting next month, I am looking forward to seeing for myself each of the projects and how local entrepreneurs, the finalists and, of course, the winner continue to develop and contribute to CIWM’s ambition of a world beyond waste.”
WasteAid will continue to work with the runners up to hone their presented business plans. Representatives were present from the National Environment Agency as well as Local Councils and a panel made from business and government sector.