The woman building Nigeria's recycling sector

Founder & CEO of Wecyclers

Country: Nigeria

Sector: Community Recycling Initiative

Bilikiss Adebiyi is an inspiring Nigerian social entrepreneur and founder of WeCyclers. Her company offers waste collection and recycling services to the Lagos informal settlements, where an estimated 66% of Lagosians live. As a part of the process, residents are offered an incentive for collecting their household waste which is picked up for free by Wecyclers using specially adapted bicycles. To create incentives among low-income households to participate, rewards are given to them for every kilogram recycled, via points sent by SMS. These points are then redeemable against goods they value, such as cell phone minutes or basic food items. The rewards have been funded in partnership with big brands such as Coca Cola and GlaxoSmithKline.

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Bilikiss's Startup Story 

Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola and her cofounders started WeCyclers in 2012, using low-cost cargo bicycles called WeCycles to provide convenient recycling services to households across Nigeria. Although born and raised in Lagos, Bilikiss initially developed the idea for her business in the US whilst she was a student at the MIT Sloan School of Management. This followed a five-year career as a corporate software engineer at IBM where she gained invaluable business and technology experience. Whilst at MIT, she was assigned to a study project aimed at finding solutions to tangibly help people at the bottom of the social pyramid. In Nigeria, about 70 per cent of Nigerians are at the base of the pyramid and are very poor; they don’t have basic sanitation; they don’t have basic healthcare, and she wanted to do something that would positively impact that segment. She was also very interested in waste management because as a Nigerian, waste is something she saw everywhere and she wanted to solve that problem. Going back to her country roots in Nigeria, Bilikiss was inspired to work on finding a much-needed and effective new solution to the problem of waste management.

Read more about Bilikiss' startup story →

We love the fact that one woman entrepreneur had an incredible vision to positively change lives and make a difference in her country, and as a result, is working to successfully change the environmental behaviour of a country’s population, one piece of plastic at a time. At the same time, she is also bringing tangible solutions to the massive unemployment situation in Nigeria and empowering local communities to create new opportunities to make their lives better. Bilikiss is a truly inspirational Lioness of Africa.  --- Melanie Hawken, LoA founder & editor-in-chief


What inspired you to start?

"I have always been interested in ideas that focus on repurposing waste...the idea for WeCyclers came up in my development ventures class at MIT. During this class, I met other people interested in doing something about waste in developing countries. Also, I worked at a large company for a few years prior to MIT so I think that this was a combination of several factors, one of which was that the timing was just perfect."

"WeCyclers gives low-income communities in developing countries a chance to capture value from waste and clean up their neighborhoods through an incentive-based recycling program."

"We see a big opportunity here in Nigeria. We hope that in five years we would be able to build a strong recycling network."


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Awards & Accolades

Bilikiss's recent awards and honours include:

  • WeCyclers is the recipient of multiple awards, including, the Cartier Women's Initiative Award, Tech Award, Echoing Green Fellowship, MIT D-lab Scale-ups fellowship, MIT IDEAS Venture Grant, Yunus Challenge Prize at the MIT IDEAS Global Challenge Competition, Carroll Wilson Fellowship and is a Sustainia100 company

  • 2014 - WeCyclers wins a Sustainia100 Company Award 

  • 2013 - Bilikiss is awarded the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award and selected as the Laureate for Sub-Saharan Africa

  • 2013 - Wecyclers is showcased in a documentary series produced by My Africa