Skip to content

RecyclePoints Business Model

Waste recycling meets social impact

Nowadays, many companies across the globe are making environmental sustainability a top priority. The urgent need to respond to the climate emergency is indeed driving individuals, organizations as well as institutions to radically re-think their habits and practices. Sure, for some businesses “sustainability” might be just another buzzword to keep (or attract new) customers. Yet, for many of them it has become a heartfelt business imperative.

Now, imagine a firm reaching economic viability while tackling waste management and creating social impact for its local community. At the same time. That sounds like great combo, doesn’t it? The good news is: it’s no fairy tale, as Nigerian social benefit venture RecyclePoints has been doing since 2012.

As a matter of fact, RecyclePoints motivates post-consumers to recycle by creating value from their everyday waste. They manage to do it through incentive-based waste recycling initiatives that we’ll explain later. Today, the company has employed – directly and indirectly – over 300 people and recycles over 100,000kg/month of waste.

Problem in context

As discussed in previous articles, social problems are complex, inter-twined, wicked by nature. Because of that, environmental issues are often considered as societal problems too, given the impact they have not only on natural ecosystems, but also on people and society. However, as you may guess, pollution or climate change are too broad challenges for a single company to tackle. That’s why RecyclePoints’ founder Chioma Ukonu decided to focus on one aspect of it: waste disposal in Nigeria.

According to academic research, the amount of waste – industrial, electronic, solid, medical – produced in Nigeria constitutes over 50% of the total amount of waste generated in sub-Sahara Africa. Using other numbers, that’s roughly 32 million tonnes of waste per year, of which 2.5 million is plastic. In Lagos alone, it’s about 10.000 tonnes per day.

Less than 30% of such waste gets recycled, due to the country’s inefficient disposal, recycling and waste management system. Still today, most common waste management practices in Nigeria include open air burning and landfilling, which frequently lead to dramatic outcomes such as soil/water/air pollution and public health hazards, especially for low income communities.

Within this context, RecyclePoints’ funding team introduced a new, incentive-based model to recover recyclables, including glass, paper, PET bottles and aluminium cans. An innovative solution that fosters circular economy and empowers local communities at the same time.

RecyclePoints business model

Early on in their entrepreneurial journey, the funding team decided to adopt an incentive-based scheme to launch and scale RecyclePoints. As a matter of fact, the idea first came during an holiday Ukonu had in the UK, during which she was fined for incorrect waste disposal. Once back in Nigeria, she was motivated to develop a solution to promote correct waste practices in her country too. 

Ukonu and her husband first began separating their household waste at home, then spread the message to family, friends, neighborhood stores. Eventually, their house soon became the holding ground of all the waste collected from the neighborhood. So, they found a place to store recyclables: that’s how they launched their first pilot in 2012.

Now, fast-forward to today, RecylcePoints offers 4 different incentive-based, recycling programs, targeted at individuals, households, companies and academic establishments. We’ll discuss more of each later. For now, what you need to know is that recyclables collected through these initiatives are then further reprocessed into new production raw materials. Finally, the company sells such materials as one of its main revenue engines.

RecyclePoints business model is a great example of a “multisided model“. The firm surely provides value for its main beneficiaries – low-income individuals and households – by exchanging recyclable waste for money or “points” (used to redeem items). Yet, their ultimate clients are large companies purchasing recycled, processed materials to use as new inputs for production. So, beneficiaries and clients are not the same, as usually happens in multisided models.

One more thing to consider: at the core of RecyclePoints multisided model lay circular economy principles. As discussed, the company tries indeed to break linear patterns (“produce, use, dispose“) by recycling and re-using waste. Therefore its BM can be rightfully considered a circular business model.

RecyclePoints: Social Business Model Canvas

As we did in previous articles, we’ll now use the Social Business Model Canvas to identify and discuss the core elements of RecyclePoints business model. Thanks to this tool, we can quickly understand how the company creates, delivers and captures value. So, let’s dive into it right now!

recyclepoints social business model canvas
RecyclePoints Social Business Model Canvas // Adapted from © Tandemic

RecyclePoints Social Business Model Canvas