By Amaka Agwuegbo
With growing pressure to live up to our responsibilit ies tothe environment due to decades of pollution and mindless resource depletion, the process of recycling resources has become more prominent over the last few years, particularly in the scrap metal trade which has been buoyed as a result.
In recent years, the sale of junk metal and rubber has become valuable raw material for individual and metal factories which have been transformed into multi-million naira businesses and have created countless jobs in the country.
Though the business functions like a pyramid model, with the truck-pushing scavengers at the bottom, dealers at the middle and factories â€“ mostly Chinese and Indian-owned – at the top, one thing they all have in common is the quick money that comes with the sale of scrap.
It is common sight to see scrap metal or rubber dumps dotting nooks and crannies of the city. More common sights are those of dirty looking sac carrying or truck pushing scavengers at dumpsites looking for metal or rubber scrap, or in the streets yelling â€œI come buy your metalâ€.
Stick wielding Ismail is at the bottom of the pyramid and has been collecting scrap for 5 years by combing streets and dumpsites in search of scrap. Despite the harsh weather, he is always on the move and is content with what he makes from his sales.
â€œI dey pick metal scrap from refuse dumps, the streets or I buy am from people wey no want am again for small money. I dey buy anything iron like pots, tins, metal plates, television, fridge, but the thing be say the heavier the metal, the more money I dey make.â€
At the middle of the pyramid are people like Mr. Donatus Emenike, a dealer in ferrous and non-ferrous scrap metal, and Mr. Monday Ike, who also deals in aluminum scrap.
Donatus started selling scrap metal due to the small amount of money with which he was settled with by his master and specializes in the sale of ferrous and non-ferrous misprint metal sheets that are sold to him by advertising companies who want to dispose off them due to the blurred colour print on them.
â€œI buy a ton misprint metal sheets for N40,000 and sell same to people who make calendars for between N50,000 and N55,000. Our peak period is usually during calendar season where we make sales of almost N200,000 weekly.
â€œThe major challenge in this our business is the high cost of importation, which makes the materials scarce, even when you have the money to buy them.â€
Mr. Monday Ike has been dealing in aluminum scrap for 3 years and has made a living from it. Though he joined the trade because his elder brother who was involved in it made it big, Monday says the business has been profitable, but is not without its ups and downs.
â€œI get the scrap from diverse sources for N150.00/kg and sell for N170.00/kg and sell a truck-load of scrap aluminum a month. Depending on how you load it, a truck can carry, at least, 5 tons of scrap.â€
For Tunde Lawal, also a dealer in scrap metal, his major suppliers are scavengers whom he gives money to buy scrap metal for him.
â€œWe usually give scavenges N20,000 to either buy from people that want to sell their disposable metal or they pick from dumpsites. At the end of the day, if money is remaining, they balance me.
A kilo of scrap metal is sold for N15.00 and good sales depends on how the truck is loaded so as to accommodate more tons of scrap metal.
â€œThis has its risks as some scavengers, after collecting money from us, disappear without delivering the products.â€
Mohammed deals in plastic scrap such as chairs, water tanks, shoes, etc., and says he buys the scrap for N30.00 per kilo and sells for N40.00 per kg to companies.
World over, scrap metal is fast becoming a money spinner as an estimated 90 million tons of scrap metal worth over $60bn are recycled each year in America.
According to the American Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, two of every three pounds of steel produced in the U.S. is made with scrap, making it the countryâ€™s most recycled material.