“Waste is wealth when value is added to it,” says CEO of EverGreen Recycling Institute
Anyone can say what they want about the sanitation problem in Monrovia. From any given perspective, some may be right, some may be wrong. But who will come up with the solutions? That is the question.
John Smith, chief executive officer (CEO) of EverGreen Recycling Institute (EGRI), may not have all the answers, but his two cents might be worth listening to. And he seems more than willing to share the knowledge he has.
At a workshop for “job opportunities creation and empowerment," held in Paynesville with stakeholders, including youth and community leaders across parts of Congo Town and Paynesville, Smith said Monrovia and many other parts of Liberia can be clean, green, and healthy, provided there is enough awareness and support for recycling companies to collect huge quantities of waste in order to recycle into finished, useful products. The workshop, held on Saturday, October 11, was organized by EGRI with sponsorship from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
“Waste is wealth,” Smith said, “but it is not useful when there is no value added to it. This is why the streets and almost everywhere else are littered with plastics and other waste materials.”
“We need more waste management and recycling companies to join us in helping add value to the huge amounts of waste around us through recycling,” Smith said in his presentation on the benefits of waste management and recycling. “I am willing to train others to become their own CEOs. I am willing to do it at no cost to the ones who have an interest in becoming entrepreneurs in waste management and recycling,” he said.
The workshop was planned long before the recent damning remarks made by Ambassador Laurent Delahousse, head of the European Union (EU) delegation to Liberia, describing Monrovia as the dirtiest African city he has ever visited. According to the Ambassador, there is a need for the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC) to do better and also to account for donors’ funds the City receives for sanitation purposes.
So it seemed to be an interesting coincidence that Monrovia’s ‘dirty laundry was being aired during the same weekend as the workshop. For Smith, there is a need for more recycling companies to help contain the widespread solid waste in Monrovia and many other parts of the country.
“Green Cities and us at EGRI,” he said, “as well as the few other recycling companies in Monrovia, go out and purchase plastics and other waste materials but we need more support and also additional partners in the same business to help contain the huge garbage in the cities around the country.”
Smith explained that wastes come from raw materials that end up in factories, from where they are taken to the communities through markets. He attributed the increase in waste production to the increase in population at any given place.
“Monrovia was not built for the over one million people it has now. It was first built for less than one hundred thousand people but with change in time, the wars and other factors led to the migration of many people to Monrovia and other urban areas across the country,” he explained.
Smith said it is not simple and easy to get rid of the waste, but with concerted efforts and enough resource support, street littering can be mitigated. He admonished people against burning waste, mainly when mixed.
“Nature is not unfair to us, but we are our own problems. When we keep burning waste -- let’s say plastics and other materials mixed -- we contribute to a certain kind of cancer people easily get and die due to lack of a cure,” he said.
The EGRI boss said people should develop an interest in sorting or separating one kind of waste from another and try to identify recycling companies that can buy their solid waste and for recycling into useful products. The mission of EverGreen Recycling Institute is to contribute to making Liberia a clean, beautiful, and green country. While EGRI has an interest in all of the wastes produced by people across Monrovia and its environs, it places more focus on plastic waste.
“Plastic is not biodegradable,” said Samuel Korboi, production manager, EGRI. It does not easily get lost. It damages the soil and pollutes water. This is why we are going out for plastics and recycling them. We are in this to keep Monrovia and its environs clean and green and at the same time have people benefit from new things such as fuel, gasoline, cups, and many other things we recycle,” he said. “We are a social enterprise organization. Our job is not about maximizing profits, but helping our country and fellow citizens.”
Precious Ben, marketing manager, EGRI, presented on marketing strategies, emphasizing awareness which, she said, is key for the expansion of the operations of any solid waste management organization. She admonished Liberians to buy materials recycled in Liberia because they are as guaranteed and durable as others that were imported.
“Let’s support our own and we will grow together. Feel free and come over to us on SD Cooper Road and buy gasoline or fuel from us. Our products are safe and sold far less than the regular prices of other commodities imported. Trust us and we will do more for the good of all of us,” Miss Ben concluded.
The participants welcomed the intervention of EGRI and many of them committed to joining hands with the recycling company to help keep Monrovia and its environs clean, green, and healthy.
Evergreen Recycling Institute was established by John Smith in 2016 due to what he called, “passion for a clean environment and adding value to waste for the good of society.” Since its founding, the entity has been involved in recycling used plastics and other solid waste materials into petroleum products, roofing sheets, and construction blocks, among others.