FUTA, TETfund workshop: Experts x-ray economic benefits of wood, plastic wastes

Participants at the workshop

The economic benefits of wastes generated from wood and plastic have been highlighted at a workshop organized by a team of research partners from the academic and research institutes in Nigeria and sponsored by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETfund).The workshop with the title Production of Value Added Composites from Municipal Wood and Plastic Wastes was convened by a Professor of Wood Science and Product Technology, Amos Oluyege of the Department of Forestry and Wood Technology (FWT) at the Federal University of Technology, Akure and held on Wednesday, December 9th at Akure.

Key note speaker Professor Ade Onilude of the Department of Wood Products Engineering, University of Ibadan who spoke on the topic Entrepreneurship and Business Spin-off Potentials in Wood and Plastic Wastes Industry- Matters Arising said raw material is abundant in Nigeria which entrepreneurs can tap into to create wealth. He urged them to focus on three key areas: Waste Collection, Waste processing and Making novel products. According to him Nigeria generates 5.2 million tons of wood wastes per year out of the 18.1 million generated globally from sawdust, off cuts, shavings, barks and others while she generates 2.5 million tons per year out of 275 million tons per year globally from food wrappers and containers, plastic bags, beverage bottles, bottle, straws and container caps and others.

He, however said with entrepreneurial mind and skills with focus on the three areas listed above, it is possible to generate wealth through waste collection vis a vis waste sorting, dumpster rental, curbside pickup, residential, industrial, junk yard, roll-off containers and trash compactors. On waste processing he listed opportunities to include setting up recovery facility, cottage plant for processing newspaper, paper towels, pallets, egg tray and carton, trash can and container, car bumper and others. On making novel products he said entrepreneurs can develop innovative ideas by combining wood and plastic wastes together to generate novel products: wood plastic composites, engineered products, plastic lumber for structural and non-structural purposes.

Prof Onilude listed prospects and challenges in exploring the opportunities in wastes to include negative attitude of people towards waste recycling and proffered sensitization programmes on media platforms and deposit and refund programmes as solution. He added that to overcome financial constraints, entrepreneurs should develop sellable ideas and business plans to seek funds from financial institutions and call for financial support by government similar to what we have in the agricultural sector. He also called for community orientation by government at all levels to address poor attitude towards locally-manufactured products. He cited example of China as a country that is doing well because of her interest in developing products from local content.

In an earlier address to declare the workshop open, the Chairman at the event and Vice Chancellor, Federal University of Technology, Akure, Professor Joseph Fuwape said the key justification for the research was to enhance solid waste management, mitigate deforestation and stimulate economic growth by encouraging the establishment of small and medium scale enterprise. Fuwape said there are lots of wood sawdust and plastic wastes generation in Nigeria due to the effects of the teeming population. These wastes cause nuisance in the community. Finding uses for these municipal solid wastes is a right step towards waste management and minimizing environmental pollution. He added that the efficient use of wood residue and wood waste are expected to minimize total reliance on solid lumber for building and construction, hence serving as a great step to reduce deforestation. On the economic implication, Professor Fuwape said “production of wood based composite from municipal solid wastes (sawdust and plastic) is expected to create employment opportunity and contribute positively to the economic growth of our society.Fuwape reechoed the importance of synergy between the town and the gown saying “university-industry collaboration requires careful management and can bring many benefits. Effective collaboration between university and industry will improve technological frontier, create platform for dialogue between the public and industry for development in the energy sector.”

Professor Fuwape commended the effort of FUTA in entrepreneurship. According to him the university has clear cut strategy on entrepreneurship and created university culture for same. He said “the university has created incubation centre that will promote innovation and creativity. The university also links students with target companies and factories where they exhibit their talents and learn new skills and also engages its alumni in entrepreneur. This has resulted in giving start-off grants to group that have great project prospect, and also increased mobility between the university and industry.”

In a welcome address, the convener of the workshop, Professor Amos Oluyege, represented by Professor S Adedutan said Nigeria is blessed with a vast natural resource which gives rise to the emergence of wood processing industries, most especially sawmills abundantly found in South West. He added that due to increasing uses of plastic materials in the form of plastic sachets and bottles as containers for drinking water and plastic bags for conveying goods purchased from the market, substantial plastic wastes are generated in the country.

He however bemoaned the methods of disposing the wastes from the sawmill and plastics saying “the environmental and health problems caused by these methods of wastes disposal in Nigeria call for the need to embark on effective waste management scheme that will enhance the utilization of wood and plastic wastes. This project, therefore aimed at using waste plastic and sawdust to produce engineered wood based composite products known as Wood Cement Composites (WCCs) and Wood Plastic Composites (WPCs).” Oluyege said “knowledge from the workshop will translate to employment opportunities in the area of wood cement and wood plastic composite industry, improvement in the nation’s economy, reduction in deforestation and environmental pollution.”

Topics handled by experts during technical sessions include: Evaluation of locally fabricated wood composite machine by a Professor of Agricultural and Environmantal Engineering (FUTA), O J Olukunle; Production of wood composite products and performance as measured by mechanical properties following weathering exposure by Dr. K. S Aina, a Research Fellow, Wood Products Technology at the Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria (FRIN) Ibadan; and Susceptibility of Wood Composite to Bio deteriorating agents by an Associate Professor of Entomology and Pest Management, Dr. Mrs O. E. Oladipo represented by Dr. O. O Oladele.

During interactive session, participants lend their voices to the hazards of mismanaging wastes generated in the environment and shared their experiences in the economic relevance of wastes from wood and plastics if properly annexed. They called on all to tap into business opportunities in waste management.

The workshop brought together experts and investors in the wood industry, especially saw millers in Akure represented by the Chairman, Elder Toluwa Akame. Barrister (Mrs) Maryam Mustapha, a Senior Legal Officer from the Research and Development section of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (tetfund) represented the Executive Secretary, Professor Suleiman Bogoro.Members of the Research Partners are: Professor J. A. Fuwape; Professor O. J. Olukunle; Professor S. A. Adedutan; Dr (Mrs) O. E. Oladipo; Dr. O. O. Oladele; Dr. J. S. Fabiyi; Dr. K. S. Aina and Dr. M. O Edema (late).