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Dirt for Money: Liberians to Earn Cash as Waste Recycling Center Opens in Monrovia

Published 03/08/2012 by Global Communities

Dirt for Money: Liberians to Earn Cash as Waste Recycling Center Opens in Monrovia
By  Gboko John Stewart
This article originally appeared on FrontPageAfrica.

Monrovia—On a hot sunny Friday, Ousman Kromah, a scavenger, walks into the in the Green Center at Nancy Doe Jorkpen Town Market with two bags of scrap materials. Dressed in a white cap flipped backwards and stripy shirt with a backpack, it seems like it is his first trip he has made today. Weary, he is quickly helped by an employee who weighs the contents of his bags. Soon after, he walks out a happy man with a fist full of Liberian dollars. On a daily basis, Kromah told FrontPageAfrica that he earns around $LD2, 400. Getting the items sometimes proves difficult, he continues, as he is often taken for a thief because of his sometimes shabby look.


Painted in green, as its name suggests, the Green Center, owned and operated by Compost Liberia Cooperative Society Limited, is the nation’s first waste segregation and recycling center. At the opening ceremonies held on February 29, 2012, Monrovia City Mayor Mary Broh said she was impressed and gave her unflinching support to the project. James Mulbah, President of Compost Liberia, explains to visitors that the project is sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation via CHF International. After undergoing training in composting, James and his team won the bid to manage the first pilot segregation center.


“For the first six months, which started from January, we are actually paying attention to getting waste, separating waste, taking the organic portion that is used and producing natural fertilizers—compost—and taking those portions that we can use for recycling,” he says. Located in the Nancy Doe Jorkpen Town Market in Jallah Town, Compost Liberia employs a team of six people. Sounding optimistic, he says, “It is just the beginning. Soon, we will be across the whole country.”


The materials that are brought to the center are recycled, which means they are reused for something useful, which benefits the environment. Furthermore, there is also a compost program at the centre, which collects rotting waste from the nearby Nancy Doe Market after every two hours. That keeps the market clean. Furthermore, the compost turns into soil, which is used to grow vegetables at the centre. The vegetables are then also sold for a profit.


“It is very good for the environment,” Mulbah says. “We have the market here and it produces too much waste. So we are taking things they may be wasting or the things that are rotting and we are stocking them. We are doing something important by helping clean the city. This is important for hygiene.”


Pointing to a white board, he shows the various items that they buy per kilo: Water plastic $LD2.00/kilo, aluminum cans $LD7.00/kilo, iron $LD10.00/kilo and liquor bottle 2 for $5LD. In the process of sorting, he says, they also get those materials.


However, he admits that the center itself is not doing its own recycling for now. “For the first stage of the project, we are not recycling. What we are is we are stocking—we buy and stock.” Mulbah has to partner with other organizations to ship that which cannot be recycled here; for example, iron. “Perhaps you will have the authority in recycling plastic but you won’t have the authority in recycling iron. You need a partner that will be recycling iron so you will do the shipment of iron to that person.”
He explains that his partners are internal and external. Clearing the air that his company is recycling computer equipment, James says they have no use for computers. “We are taking parts from machines. We don’t stock old computers to repair it – we don’t do that. All we are looking for is two things on your computer. If you have hard iron or hard rubber, we take it out – those are the major things we want from on your computer.”

Productivity and a potential for profit seems to be built into every aspect of this small company. It is giving urban poor like Kromah a task to perform (scavenging discarded items) which they can do for money; this keeps people busy and out of trouble and puts little bit of money in their pockets. That all keeps the city clean, contributes to hygiene, and is good for the environment.