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Nigeria: turning tyres into tiles and bricks

Freee Recycle in Nigeria has recycled 400,000 old tyres into new products.   -  
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Nigerian company Freee Recycle is reducing landfill by turning old tyres into new products, sold across the country.

According to a report by the Tire Industry Project, one billion end-of-life tyres are generated globally every year.

And an estimated four billion are currently in landfills and stockpiles worldwide.

But in Nigeria, one company is helping to reduce waste through recycling. 

Freee Recycle is transforming old tyres into paving bricks, floor tiles, flip flops and other goods and since its launch in 2018, the company have recyled over 400,000 tyres into new products.

Managing director Ifedolapo Runsewe says it's not hard to spot the problem of waste on Nigeria's streets.

“I think if you take a five minutes’ walk or ten minutes’ walk, and I guarantee you that you will spot at least ten tyres, right? Then you find them in drainages, you find them in street corner at where they ideally shouldn't be," she says.

Recycling process

The tyres are processed and ground into small pieces.

They're then mixed with an adhesive that lets workers shape the waste into all manner of products.

"[Tyres are] quite versatile in terms of the materials they are made from, talk of the rubber, which is mostly what we work with here, and even the steel, which is quite valuable," says Runsewe. "And then you also have the fibre as well, which has its own uses and application.”

The company's most popular product is its rubber paving stone, which costs about $60 for a set of 40.

The slightly higher cost of Freee products is due to their extended shelf life compared to their traditional counterparts, the company says.

The products are available in major Nigerian cities, including Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt.

Bolanle Emmanuel, Oyo state coordinator of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, says one of the challenges will be "getting the raw materials down to these sites".

"This is the only recycling, tyre recycling industry that I've seen in Nigeria. Getting ingots like these and tyres to rubbers like that," she says.

"I feel to get these challenges mitigated, they can replicate this center in different communities where they can crush the tyres so that it will compress the volume into bags. When they are crushed into different sizes, it could easily be carried to where they will make use of it in final products.”

Environmental solution

Freee Recycle believes it has prevented more than 8,100 tonnes of CO2 emissions since it began.

“Environmentally, they're making good use of material, which is usually sent to waste or burnt, which causes major air pollution," says Eid Zouki, a construction engineer, who recently commissioned Freee Recycle to supply a flooring solution for a school.

“Maybe on a larger scale, now we have a more environmentally conscious society worldwide, the trend to using sustainable materials, reusing, recycling and making good use of materials usually sent to waste will catch on and eventually it will catch on in Africa.”

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