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Fighting Poverty through Profit: Job Creation and Income Generation in Selected High-Impact Sectors in Senegal- Plastics Recycling

While plastic has become the material of choice for the manufacturing of consumer products in recent decades, it has also become a rapidly growing problem in many developing countries like Senegal. Rudimentary waste removal systems may exist in these countries, but they are far from being able to get rid of all the garbage generated by urban and peri-urban populations, leaving residents to resort to informal dumping on vacant land.  Plastic waste quickly accumulates leading to increasing public health problems and contamination.

The need for plastic recycling becomes evident when looking around Dakar, Senegal. The landscape is littered with plastic waste and formal and informal disposal mechanisms are not sufficient to deal with this problem.  As a means of addressing the problem, in 2004, with funding from USAID EnterpriseWorks/VITA (EWV) initiated a pilot project aimed at developing private-sector led plastic recycling activities in Dakar and turning plastic waste into a profitable resource. To this end, EWV developed and introduced a new technology for the grinding of plastic waste, reducing the waste to the consistency of pellets and powder. The technology didn’t require melting the plastic so it provided an economical way for recycling enterprises to reform the plastic waste into a wider array of consumer and industrial products. EWV also developed new sorting capabilities for recycling facilities, to enable entrepreneurs to sell recycled plastic sorted by color, thermoplastic quality, and under different forms such as grinded in flakes or pellets to better respond to the manufacturer’s specific requirements.

The project was more than an effective means of addressing plastic recycling needs.  After developing these technologies, EWV contributed to employment generation by identifying and training unemployed residents to collect, sort, wash, and compact plastic waste in order to sell it to the recycling industry. Additionally, EWV trained local metal shops to produce the mills and grinders for sale to collection and recycling enterprises.

The true synergy involved in alleviating Dakar’s plastic waste problem while private businesses and local entrepreneurs profited by recycling plastic was an unqualified success. The pilot program successfully captured a new market niche while simultaneously lowering local plastic manufacturers’ input costs and increasing their profitability.