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Used tires are Nigeria’s new “black gold”

In Nigeria, a country heavily dependent on revenue from oil exports, businesswoman Ifedolapo Runsewe identified another type of “black gold”: used car tyres.

Ifedolapo Runsewe created Freetown Waste Management Recycle, an industrial factory dedicated to old tire transformation in paving bricks, paving tiles and other goods that are highly sought after in Africa’s most populous nation.

“Creating something new from something that would otherwise be in the trash was part of the motivation,” Runsewe said, speaking to Reuters, from the factory, which is located in the city of Ibadan, in southwestern Nigeria.

“We are able to create all a value chain around tires“, said the entrepreneur, who was holding a paving brick — one of the company’s best-selling products.

Waste management in Nigeria is uneven at best. In villages, towns and cities, the piles of waste are a common sight and residents often burn them for lack of a safer method of disposal. Tires are regularly dumped and abandoned.

Freetown Waste Management Recycle relies on waste pickers, who collect old tires and receive between 70 to 100 naira (0.15 to 0.21 euros) for each.

Some tires are even supplied directly by mechanics, as is the case with Akeem Rasaq, who was happy to find a way to earn some money from the old tyres.

“Most of the tires end up in public sanitation and clog the sewers, but things have changed,” he said.

Freetown started the process of reusing used tires in 2020 with only four employees, but the growth was so fast that it already has 128. So far, more than 100,000 tires were recycled and transformed on speed control humps and smooth paving for playgrounds, for example.

“It’s important to support anyone who recycles in our country,” said Houssam Azem, founder of the Lagos Jet Ski Riders Club, which purchased Freetown paving bricks for a children’s playground.

“Taking tires, which are an environmental nuisance, and turning them into what children can play in, I think is a victory for everyone,” he concluded.

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