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Monday, 29 July 2013
Nigeria: Polythene Waste is Wealth - Akinkuebi
Polythene production is a lucrative business in Nigeria, capable of generating jobs for the teeming unemployed graduates and other job seekers in the country. Though it is an area that has been largely neglected by the government. Young entrepreneurs aspiring to venture into this business may, however, be frustrated by the huge capital and technical expertise required, which is why Indian nationals have monopolised the industry in Nigeria.
Right from the sale of Eleme Petro-Chemical Company Limited (EPCL) to an Indian conglomerate, to mega factories they hold key stakes in, they have had it easy obtaining raw materials which are majorly petrochemical by-products obtained from refineries. A situation which has not favoured emerging Nigerian entrepreneurs in the industry as they have limited access to these raw materials.
It is this dominance that a Nigerian, Mr Olufemi Akinkuebi, is aspiring to challenge through his polythene production and packaging company. From just passing by watching the Indians produce polythene as a young man years ago, then travelling to China and meeting with manufacturers of the machinery to learn the latest technology, Olufemi says he is gearing up for the challenge of building a company that will be rated among the world leaders in polythene recycling and production in the next five years.
He owns a company which recycles and produces polythene bags of different sizes and colours, ranging from pure water to other packaging polythene bags for different foods like chips, bread, cakes, cloths and shopping bags for general use.
Olufemi gets special orders from big users like construction companies, hotels and other organisations. He presently uses virgin materials, his company's wastes and wastes from other companies, which he processes elsewhere as he doesn't have the machinery to handle the process.
He started the enterprise four years ago, setting it up for clients who need the service, before moving to a rented apartment. Now he is moving to a permanent location. Olufemi now has over 12 young Nigerians on his payroll as staff working in the factory.
He was awarded N10 million grant through the government YouWiN programme to support his business, a grant which, he says, has given him a great platform and boosted his business. In less than a year, he is moving to his permanent site with plans to increase capacity to meet increasing demand. Customers from North Central mostly troop into Lagos to place order for polythene packaging, indicating a high need of polythene factories in the region.
The process of recycling the waste is simple. Olufemi explains that he produces his polythene product by first getting the right raw materials, mixing them together very well, then putting them in the tunnel of the blower or extruder. The extruder heats it up and liquidises it then blows it out according to size and thickness. After that he sets it and takes it to the cutting and sealing machine which will cut it to size and shape. The handle is punched on it after which it is ready for packaging accordingly for sale.
He says that he uses simple and standard technology like the blowing machine, the extruder and the granular (raw materials), cutting and sealing machine with handle which are very affordable. Usually, raw materials are bought for N350 per kg, and the finished product sold for N450 per kg. Notwithstanding the present record, he reckons that more funds would be needed for further expansion. "Daily capacity is less than 1000kg, whereby I have market for 8000kgs daily, but we are limited, we need investors, partner financiers so we can increase our capacity, we have all the technical know-how," he said, adding that he has approached banks for loan.
At the moment, much of the raw materials, which include polyethylene sheets or other basic petrochemical products such as Escorene, Luplen, and Dow, are imported mainly from Indonesia, Korea Republic and China, a situation which is not encouraging. According to him, "government is not doing bad in the area of regulation, but I am of the opinion that polythene material should carry higher tariff to discourage those that are still importing the materials most especially the ones we have capacity to do here".
Olufemi says his company is working to stem the environmental risks posed by indiscriminately disposed waste materials by putting up recycling plant that can take the whole pure water sachets from Ikorodu and Ketu axis (in Lagos), a programme on how he would be buying waste from people which in a way will create more employment opportunities while his company still makes money.
His main focus now is to increase his capacity, attract investors and beat competitors. "The technology is not a problem, if you have the money you will get it. If only those that have the money can come out. The smallest plant of the Indians around here will do 10 tons per day; you can imagine the enormous resources they have put in," Olufemi said.
Nothing drives him more than the passion he has for what he is doing. "All my life I have always believed in manufacturing, I take my time to stay around those Indians to learn a bit, until I travelled to China to get full details, my experience so far has been challenging like dealing with staff, operators and above all, the challenge of power. However, the good thing is that we are taking up the challenge and things are getting better; in the next 5 years, we want to be one of the world's leading polythene packaging firms," he said.