Tackling Climate Challenge: How Scavengers Contribute to Global Solution in Kano

Musa Jibrin is a teenage almajiri boy in Mandawari area in Kano City who does not beg for food or token from neighbourhood and passers-by to survive as it is often done by others. Instead, after his morning Qur’anic studies, he moves around dump refuse sites, gutters, sewages, markets and roadsides to pick up plastic wastes such as rubber bottles, jerry cans, sachet water nylon, and polyethene among others. 

After hours of shuttling from one waste site to another under the scorching sun, Musa takes his plastic waste to buyers. 

“I search refuse sites and gutters for plastic bottles and nylons. I collect garbage and trash from houses and extract plastic, nylon and other materials, which I sell to earn some money. I make from N500 and above daily,” he told WikkiTimes.

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Like teenage Musa, multitudes of teenagers, youths and women in Kano are engaging in scavenging to earn a living while phasing out plastic incineration.

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Abdullahi Hassan, a junior secondary school student who lives with his parents in Dorayi area of Gwale local government in Kano, told WikkiTimes that he alternates between scavenging for plastic waste and going to school. 

“I scavenge through heaps of refuse in residential areas to gather plastic and nylon for selling in the morning. I go to school in the afternoon because school starts in the afternoon,” he explained.

According to Kabiru Abubakar, he established a plastic waste collection spot at Katsina road in Kano city, where he not only survives through the business but engages young boys to earn a living in the process.

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“The plastic and nylon are usually picked up from dump refuse sites and gutter or sewage. Youngsters pick and sort them out based on their categories, and we measure them on a scale. 

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“We buy one kilo of big plastic bottle N50 while smaller ones N30; sachet water nylon kilo costs N20; nylon that is strong like that of soft drink is N70. Daily, I buy between 200 -300 kilos of sachet water nylon; for rubber plastic bottles, I buy 50-70 kilos daily.”

He said he cleanses them before taking them to industrial areas to exchange for cash, “I sell some in Sharada industrial area, I take some to Dakata industrial layout and some especially sachet water nylon I take it to Viva company. When you gather a lot, that is when you will make reasonable gains but if you take it little by little you won’t make any reasonable gain. In fact, you can’t even settle the transport if you aren’t lucky.”

The 35-year-old  however noted that, scavenging for plastics gives him all the goodies life can offer: “In this business, I survive with my family, parents and even assist others. I am married to two wives and three children, but I survive in this business. I own a house and a motorcycle all through this business.”

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Even though this business is male-dominated, women aren’t left out in job creation and tackling plastic waste challenges. 

Maryam Isyaku, who inherited scavenging from her mother since childhood, said she buys from young boys and girls that supply her before she resells to recyclers.

She said: “This has been my business since when I was a child. I used to see my mom doing it, and I later embraced it. I buy it from young boys and almajirai. I buy waste plastic of N5000 -6000 daily. I wash them with detergent and take them to sell in Jakara, Kurmi or Dawanau markets”.


Plastic waste in Kano remains one of the most visible wastes in the commercial city. With its growing population, plastic pollution keeps increasing.

According to Statista, there are an estimated 367 million tonnes (367 billion kg) of plastic production in 2020 alone globally, explaining further that about 12 tonnes (12,000kg) are produced every second.

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimated that 400 million tonnes of plastic waste are generated worldwide annually, exceeding the yearly production of plastic. 

In Nigeria, Business Day reported that of the 32 million tonnes of waste generated annually, 2.5 million tonnes are plastic waste, making Nigeria the largest in Africa and among the top ten countries globally with the highest contributions to plastic pollution.  

With the dearth of investment in a circular economy, according to a report on the Conversation, 88 per cent of Nigeria’s plastic waste is not recycled, ending up on the shores and later in the waters.

Although there is no official data on plastic pollution in the state, as one of the most populous States in Nigeria, Kano contributes significantly to Nigeria’s plastic pollution. 

There is officially 52 recognised dump refuse sites in Kano city in addition to other unofficially recognised sites, which generate about 4000 tons of solid waste daily. 

 Aliyu Sadiq of Ecocykle observed that plastic waste is a serious challenge in Nigeria. He said, “Recently, during world environment day, when we embarked on sanitising the environment, about 70 per cent of what we removed from the drainages was plastic pollution. It aided the upsurge of flooding in Nigeria.”

A professor of Geography, Adamu Idris Tanko, averred that although there is a dearth of data on the actual daily plastic waste generation in Kano, but the population and frequent use of plastic bags will provide insight.

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“Look at our population, Kano is the most populous state. So if you take it even by way of a gram, the gram you are wasting by the day will give you some idea of the plastic waste we are actually generating,” he told WikkiTimes. 

Burning of plastic waste is a common means of managing plastic pollution in Kano but experts contend that it poses a serious threat to the planet earth as it emits black carbon that is 5000 higher than carbon dioxide, which aggravates global warming.


Globally, it is estimated that there are 30 million metric tons of plastic waste in oceans and another 109 million in various rivers accounting for 4 per cent of GreenHouse Gas (GHG). 

It is predicted that by 2050, GHG from plastic is expected to reach 15 per cent of the entire GHG. 

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) revealed that plastic waste makes up 80 percent of marine pollution and by 2050, it will outweigh all fish in the sea.    

Experts established that most of the plastic wastes end up in lakes, rivers, seas and oceans and destroy life in water. Eventually, over time, the plastic waste decomposes, and when exposed to solar radiation, GHG emission is released in the form of methane and ethylene into the atmosphere and trapped, thus exacerbating climate change. 

In water, plastic waste pieces affect the ability of marine microorganisms to absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. It affects the organism’s ability to grow, reproduce and capture carbon.

According to experts, open burning or plastic incineration releases black carbon 5000 times higher than carbon dioxide.

 Prof. Tanko explained that whenever plastics are burned, they emit terribly dangerous gases, “If you inhale that, it is a big problem and if it gets to the atmosphere it is another big problem because you are releasing all sorts of gases, including the methane and all of them are greenhouse gases.”

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It is reported that the ocean has taken between 30-50 per cent of atmospheric carbon since the industrial revolution. Like the earth, the ocean is being threatened by climate change, including via the deposition of plastic waste, which weakens its ability to capture carbon.

According to, 2013 – 2021 were among the warmest years on record. Earth’s temperature has upped more than twice since 1981, from 0.08°C per decade to 0.18°C per decade. 

In 2021, the average temperature in both land and ocean was 0.84°C which was higher than the twentieth average and preindustrial period. 


A World Bank report noted that the links between climate change and plastic waste begin from production up to the pollution stage. It said that of consumed plastic, only 9 per is recycled while, over 90 per cent is dumped in the natural environment,  adding that discarded plastic especially polythene on earth and water over time got exposed to solar radiation that eventually emits methane and ethylene while burned waste emits dangerous black carbon that aids depleting of the ozone layer.

Some of the impacts, as Prof. Tanko observed, include the upsurge of flooding, “If you are talking about wet conditions you get wetter, you have this excessive rainfall flooding everywhere. The flood you see along Hadejia-Jama’are River basin I don’t think we have ever seen in history,” he said.

Tanko added that “now we are getting these extremes, if it is cold, it is terribly cold. And if it’s hot it is terribly hot, because what we call the ozone layer that moderates between GHG and solar radiation have torn.”

He buttressed that the changes in the planet earth aided by climate change through many factors, including plastic waste, will continue “to give a warmer atmosphere which changes the climatic conditions.” 

“Plastics don’t decompose easily, and if they don’t it means people sometimes burn them even on the farm, and these emissions that come out are terribly dangerous.” 


“Plastic waste is actually a fundamental problem if you look at our society, especially where everything that you do you will see that it is accompanied by plastic,” observed Prof. Tanko.

 Scavengers also known as baban bola are contributing toward solving this challenge of the 21st century. 

Kano State does not have a plastic waste policy to encourage recycling to tackle plastic pollution. Scavengers remain committed to getting rid of waste by supplying it to small enterprises.

Like plastic pickers, recyclers are using plastic-related materials for industrial repurposing and recycling to other products to boost their businesses, leaving the city cleaner and the planet safer. With supply from the scavengers consisting of young boys, almajirai, youths etc., the recycling businesses absorb tonnes of wastes that could have increased the vulnerability of the residents to pollution, flooding, and diseases such as malaria and cholera in addition to contributing to climate change. 

Jamilu Magashi, who owns a recycling company in Sharada industrial area, said for over seven years in the business, the steady supply of plastic waste from the scavengers has sustained him. He noted that scavengers supply hundreds of kilos of plastic to his factory.

According to him, his factory recycles plastic waste into buckets, cups, kettles, plates and many other things. 

“We recognise the scavengers very well as they contribute to the success of this business. They normally bring scraps of rubber here, or else we meet them wherever they are as we can only work with what they bring. A kilo of rubber usually goes from N100 to N110, depending on the market at a particular time.

“We produce anything that has to do with rubber here. Like plates, buckets, gallons and many other things. Most of what we buy are scrap gallons, jerry cans, etc., which are harmful to the environment. 

He said in Kano, there are many recycling companies like his own and most get their supply from scavengers.  

Usman Bala, who buys used soft drink bottles from the scavengers, compresses them and dispatches them to Lagos for processing. Sharada noted this has been his primary source of sustenance. 

He added that the scavengers remain the backbone of the business as their supplies make their industrial use possible.

“If we are to generate the bottles or rubbers, it will take us a long time to do that. But for the scavengers, it is easier for them as they go round the nooks and crannies to get them. They sell to the dealers in Kilos, and we also buy from them in tons,” he said.

According to UNEP, a circular economy entails designing products and materials to be reused, remanufactured, recycled or recovered and maintained in the economy for as long as possible.

It is estimated by the World Bank that only 9 -12 per cent of plastic wastes are recycled, and the non-recycled ones contribute immensely to global carbon emissions from extraction to production and disposal. 

In Nigeria, it is also estimated in a report by the Conversation that about 90 per cent of plastic waste is not recycled, contributing to climate disruption by letting the waste into nature. 

There is no data on the quantity of daily plastic waste in Kano; research estimated that about 4000 metric tonnes of waste are being generated daily, with plastic as a significant contributor. 

Scavengers have become critical stakeholders sustaining established business activities from waste while providing an immense contribution to solving climate problems by curtailing the waste’s deposition in waters or open burning to produce black carbon.

From the children on the street and almajirai to women and men, scavenging has become an established solution provider as thousands of tonnes of plastic waste have been recycled out the nature and put to other use; enhancing the environment through clearing drainages, decongesting gutters, picking from refuse sites and subtly to prevent flooding phase out the possibility of GHG.

In Dakata, Sharada, Kurmi and Chalawa industrial layouts, numerous small and medium enterprises heavily rely on tonnes of waste supplied from the streets of Kano.

Aliyu Sadiq of Ecocykle, said, “plastic waste has a lot of potentials, especially for private-driven investment. In addition to tackling climate change, it will help in achieving other SDGs such as addressing poverty, hunger, health, etc. circular economy is a sustainable approach to solving the plastic wastes challenge.” 

For professor, Tanko, a circular economy allows turning waste into “some economic value; you can use it one more time, or more sans adding to the global problem”.


Indiscriminate dumping of refuse has littered many parts of Kano city with waste, especially plastic. Consequently, practices such as open burning of plastic pollution that emits black carbon were quotidian, and the resultant smokes often decorate the sky. With the diligent efforts of scavengers, they have minimised the open burning of plastic waste, especially rubber bottles.

 Through their activities of the “circular economy,” it may be inadvertently caused by their steady supply of plastic trash to factories that have helped reduce plastic waste in Kano. 

Now major dump sites visited in Sabon Gari, BUK road, Kofar Dawanau, Kwari, DanAgundi, Haure, among others have no traces of plastic open burning like obtained in the past.


However, scavenging as a part of the circular economy has been largely informal, only relying on the suppliers such as almajiri, youths who are not sufficiently trained in the chain of activities, especially personal hygiene. To perfect the process, CSO, government and individuals need to modernise and improve the system.

As Magashi, who runs a recycling operation said, there is no coordination between recyclers just as there is none among the scavengers. “it is still an unregulated business with no government attention”, he said.

In solving the plastic problem, scavengers often expose themselves and their close ones to extreme danger as they use bare hands to excavate heaps of refuse daily.   

At the COP26 last year in Glasgow, the main goal was to secure a global net zero by mid-century and keep a maximum of 1.5 C degrees warming within reach. Thus, efforts are geared toward reducing GHG as experts contend that stakeholders such as governments, corporate entities, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and individuals have various and unique roles to play in addressing the plastic pollution challenge in Nigeria. 

To achieve that, Prof Tanko suggested, “The government is to give a policy by which plastic bags use will be reduced. Forget about other things that are contributing. Just the bags. If you can see what is happening in some parts of the world, people don’t just go into supermarkets and take bags to put in their things.”

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He advocated for introducing the “polluter pays principle” which will make plastic bags expensive and people will use them to the maximum. 

Sadiq of Ecocykle worries that over 80 per cent of plastic waste isn’t recycled, and the quantity of plastic used in Nigeria will triple by 2050, which will have an implication on human health, environment and biodiversity. 

He, however, said with the efforts of scavengers and other stakeholders, the challenge is surmountable. “It is a collective effort and collaboration between stakeholders that would yield something positive. There should be synergy between governments, citizens, and CSOs. Plastic has come to stay. It is part of our life. Therefore we need to have a way that we can manage this plastic without allowing it to affect the environment through a circular economy.”

Prof. Tanko concurred that “Let the public understand that these bags that they see are not just bags for nothing. They are detrimental to your health, to the climate, to your food and to your wellbeing.” 

This publication is produced with support from the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) under the Collaborative Media Engagement for Development Inclusivity and Accountability Project (CMEDIA) funded by the MacArthur Foundation.


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