Amidst the hot weather – physically,
economically and politically – a bottle of cold
plastic Coke, Nestle water, Eva water or Faro
water may just prove to relieve one from
the day’s scorching sunshine. Sometimes, it
could just be a show of enjoyment by those
who can afford it, or some poor folks trying
to dramatise status symbol.
The most interesting part is how these
plastic bottles of different sizes are flung
into different locations in the capital city
of Nigeria, Abuja. From speeding cars and
buses, restaurants and pedestrians, people
have little or no idea they are throwing
away money in form of empty plastic bottles
after it might have gone through a recycling
process.
In the eyes of many Nigerians, especially
the youths, scavenging for these plastic
bottles, a business popularly called
“rubbers”, is a type of business that has
been probably cursed by the gods as a
punishment for some irredeemable sins,
while others see it as poverty gone wild that
requires state of emergency treatment. But
few youths that venture into this trade see
it as a lucrative money spinner for anyone
who can lay down his pride. The scavengers
are called Baban Bolas in Hausa.
From Nyanya to Wuse, Garki to
Gwagwalada, etc, it is common to see plastic
bottles scavengers digging refuse dumps,
waste drums at residential and industrial
areas, opening bags or refuse bags thrown
away by passers-by. Interestingly, they could
be seen exchanging money for plastic bottles
between seller and customers with dirty
hands, smelling cloths and bags. The sellers
posit that many Nigerians walk the streets
with empty pockets, wallets and purses
when they can help themselves with what
some called dirty money.
While going around picking these dirty
plastic bottles by scavengers seem dirty, but
dirty money doesn’t smell when it comes
to buying food and other essentials in the
market; it is a survival strategy.
Mama Favour, mother of four children
and staff of Abuja Environmental Protection
Board, AEPB, smiled how this business of
hunting for plastics bottles, washing them
and reselling them to customers has helped
her as an additional source of income which
has enabled her to cater for her family. “After
doing justice to the day’s work, I rush into
my pick-and-sell rubber business,” she
smiled broadly after receiving payment for
60 cartons sold.
She added that nevertheless, plastic bottles
are mostly bought in packs of twelve from
vendors. She sometimes hunts for some
when her job permits. Buying from the
suppliers who are mostly considered as
Baban Bolas goes for N25 for 75cl, with a

resale to customers for N50 per carton of
twelve. A dozen of big size wearing 150cl is
bought for N50 from Baban Bolas and resold
for N100 to customers, having 100% return on
investment on this cool business.
It’s interesting to learn that more than 90%
of these plastic bottles are mainly used for
reselling locally made beverages such as
Kunu Zaki, Zobo, Kunu Aya (made from tiger
nut), Fura-da-Nunu (made from cow milk),
insecticides and local roots popularly called
Agbo in Yoruba. “I have five children that help me on this
business during weekends or when they are
on break from school”, said Mama Lot who
further explained that “this is one business that
one doesn’t need start-up capital other than
going to pick these plastic bottles that litter
the streets on Abuja and Nigeria as a whole.”
Recreational areas such as Millennium Park,
National Children Park and Zoo are the gold
mines for these plastic bottles. Considering the
social activities that are attached to these areas,
plastic bottles are inevitable, she while dropping
some bottles into a basin of Omo water to wash
the plastic bottles.
She continued saying that, “picking these
plastic bottles that come in different sizes from
different locale in the FCT helps in keeping the
capital city clean.
“When my husband refused to give me
money to help myself, I will definitely not cry
because I have a business that brings income
to my pocket. I use the money to pay my
children’s school fees and also buy food for the
family”, Mama Binta who is also involved in
the business explained.
She has been in this business for about 10 years
now. When the business is at its peak, especially
during dry season, she can make up to N8,000
per day and sometimes she gets nothing. This is
usually so during raining season.
She lamented the challenges of doing this
business. One is always considered as a
madman or madwoman when one is seen
going to different refuse areas or places to pick
these plastic bottles. She said that “sometimes
one will trek far and wide with little or no plastic
bottles to pick. She added that “washing these
plastic bottles can be very stressful because
some customers often return plastic bottles

that are not properly washed. These plastic bottles
are washed with only water and detergent.
The water used in washing these bottles is
bought from Mairuwa (water vendors) for
N20 –N30 for a 20 litter depending on the
proximity to where this water is fetched”, she
said.
This business is dominated by woman.
Some of them are patriotic enough to appeal
to the government to make available pipe
borne water available so as to help in reducing
the price they sell plastic bottles to buyers.
There are however risks in reusing these
plastic bottles. For many, the profits the
retailers and customers make from this
business is worth it considering the hours
and hard labour and associated risk involved
in this business. While many Nigerians think
they (traders) are doing the society good by
reusing this plastic bottles, medical experts
and researches have pointed out the risks
associated with recycling plastic bottles for
food consumption by Nigerians.
Experts believe that these bottles are used
by people that may be having all kind of
diseases causing microbes; bacteria, virus
etc. that may slide into these plastic bottles
during drinking. While those in the business
of selling these empty rubbers use soaps,
Omo, Ariel mostly as the remedy for keeping
these plastic bottles cleanfor continue usage,
they also think using the water and detergent
ritual will also sent all these microbes packing.
On a contrary, Dr. Adegbite of the Nyanya
General Hospital said, reusing these plastic
bottles is highly substandard as some
microbes can survive high temperature. He
added that, “in advanced countries, after the
first use, the plastics are recycled to new ones
to reduce the health implications of reuse.”
Saleable plastic bottles tend to wear
down from constant use, which may lead
to bacterial growth in surface cracks inside
the bottles. “The risk is compounded if one
adequately washes the bottles between each
use, using soap and warm water. But even
with washing, these microscopic hideouts
may still allow bacteria to linger”, explained
Dr. Mercola.
A study conducted in the United Sates
suggests kind of thorough washing that
could kill bacteria might make the bottles
unsafe in another way. Frequent washing
of these plastics might accelerate the breakdown
of the plastic, potentially causing
chemicals to leach into whatever drink that is
being refilled into the reused bottles.
While the trend of recycling plastic bottles
lingers, many are raising their banners why
it’s unwise to use these bottle suggesting
other stainless glass containers that are more
health friendly compared to the beauty and
beast embedded in the plastic bottles one
drinks from.


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