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Circular Economy has the Potential to Transform Nigeria’s Energy Sector- Rasheed Aliu

In a circular economy, less natural resources are extracted, products are designed to last, repairing and sharing are key and upcycling always comes before recycling.

“The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international agreement on climate change formulated to limit global warming to less than two °C, or more preferably, less than 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels. By this agreement, countries aim to reach peak greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as soon as possible to achieve a climate-neutral world by mid-century.”

Experts suggest that Nigeria can be climate resilient, and achieve a sustainable economy that is inclusive and prosperous, is to embed the concept and principles of circularity.

Rasheed Aliu is skilled and vast in knowledge of design, construction and installation of biogas digester plant, according to him, he is gear to complete end to organic waste in homes, eateries, hotels, factories, and farms, whereby such waste will be converted into methane gas which can be plowed back into the system as energy for cooking, heating, powering mini-grids (electricity) and transportation fuel, which could help address the climate crisis, sustainable agriculture, affordable energy, good livelihood as well as creating sustainable cities and communities, making the world a better place his is pursuit.

The founder of ArleeGreen, a waste-to-energy (biogas) company and a social entrepreneur, Rasheed, walks readers through the Nigerian circular economy in this interview with Oyebamiji Adesoji Usman.

SA: Could you kindly tell us a little bit about yourself and your position at ArleeGreen?

RA: I am a trained and certified climate-change expert from the Climate School of Oxford, Oxford University, a skilled Electrical/Electronic Engineering graduate from Yaba College of Technology and business executive trainer from Lagos Business School with experience spanning 5 years in Diplomacy, Climate-change and energy-research and Entrepreneurship.

I have also featured as a delegate representing Nigeria at the 17th United Nations climate change Conference of Youth 17 (COY 17) organized by YOUNGO, the official Youth Constituency of the UNFCCC. As a member of Nigeria’s European-Union Youth Sounding Board, I served as a youth advisor on policy issues around Youth Leadership Inclusion and the Green and Digital Economy in Nigeria and ECOWAS.

In my bid to mitigate change and crisis from generating energy from fossil fuels and combat greenhouse gas emissions from organic waste, I founded Arleegreen, a cutting-edge climate tech bioenergy startup committed to converting organic waste into clean energy to empower rural communities in solving daily waste and energy problems. By decarbonizing hard-to-abate sectors using Technology as our forerunner to displace fossil fuels, Arlee Green unlocked the full potential of bio-methane production by immediately reducing the impact of Electricity, Transportation, Industry, and Agriculture CO2 emissions by 2030.

SA: You are putting the principles of the circular economy into practice and addressing issues related to climate change as the founder of ArleeGreen. What strategies have you backed in the past, and how have they helped the fight against climate change?

RA: One way we have addressed these pressing issues at ArleeGreen, is by converting households, farms and industrial organic waste into clean energy biogas for domestic and industrial use through a process called anaerobic digestion.

This approach has addressed issues relating to climate change in several ways. First, it reduced the amount of waste that is sent to landfills, which could release methane, a potent greenhouse gas that is 21 times more than carbon dioxide, preventing it from getting into the atmosphere.

Second, it has converted waste to energy, which can displace the use of fossil fuels- a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Finally, it has reduced the demand for chemical fertilizers and the associated greenhouse gas emissions that are produced during their extraction, transportation and processing.

We at ArleeGreen, have developed biogas solutions, to design out waste and pollution, by keeping organic waste, such as households, farms, industries such as agro-Allied food waste breweries spent waste for the purpose of regenerating renewable energy to accelerate universal access to energy, water food and job creation, in a bid to advance climate-resilient communities in Nigeria and Africa at large.

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SA: How would you describe the idea of a circular economy in the simplest terms?

RA: A circular economy is an economic system that aims to minimize waste and pollution by keeping materials and products in use for as long as possible, through strategies such as recycling, reuse, and sharing.

SA: Lafarge Africa Plc introduced a green, circular economy with geocycle for sustainability two years ago. What additional notable instances do we currently have of companies in Nigeria completely embracing the circular economy concept?

RA: The circular economy is all about the minimization of waste and pollution by putting waste in use for the regeneration of a new product for as long as possible. In view of this, there are companies in Nigeria, there are companies that are at the forefront. One of them is Dangote Industries which uses waste from its cement manufacturing process to produce clinker, a material that is useful in producing cement. That is not all. A company like Scrapays has been successful at facilitating the recovery of recyclable waste in developing countries using software-based recovery network.

SA: The Federal Government of Nigeria has pledged to implement the unconditional contribution in a number of ways. This includes phasing out kerosene lighting by 2030, a 50% reduction in the fraction of crop residues burnt by 2030, and implementing forest programmes to deliver a 20% GHG emission reduction. How effective do you think these and other related Nigerian initiatives are, as an expert?

RA: The goals of phasing out kerosene lighting, reducing crop residue burning, and implementing forest programs in Nigeria are all positive steps towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing climate change. Phasing out kerosene lighting by 2030 will be a crucial step towards promoting the use of clean energy sources and reducing indoor air pollution, which is a significant health risk in Nigeria.

Reducing the fraction of crop residues burnt by 50% by 2030 will reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and other harmful gases. This strategy will require the development of alternative uses for crop residues, such as waste to energy solution such as biogas, composting or animal feed, as well as incentives for farmers to adopt these practices.

SA: How do the carbon footprint, sustainability, and circular economy relate to one another? How do these ideas apply to energy?

RA: Carbon footprint, sustainability, and circular economy are interconnected concepts that are all relevant to the energy sector. The carbon footprint measures the amount of greenhouse gas emissions associated with an activity, product, or organization, and is a key indicator of environmental impact. In the energy sector, reducing carbon emissions is essential to achieving sustainability goals, as greenhouse gas emissions are a major contributor to climate change. The transition to renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and hydro power is an important step towards reducing carbon emissions and achieving a sustainable energy system.

The circular economy, which is also relevant to the energy sector, emphasizes the importance of minimizing waste and maximizing resource efficiency. For example, in a circular economy, energy systems would prioritize the use of renewable energy sources and put into great consideration energy-efficiency measures such as building insulation and energy-efficient appliances.
Reducing carbon emissions, promoting sustainable energy systems, and adopting circular economy principles are all essential to creating a more sustainable future for energy.

SA: What do you think the circular economy is supposed to be doing for Nigeria’s energy sector right now? How about the immediate future?

RA: In the context of Nigeria’s energy sector, a circular economy approach has a great propensity to promote energy efficiency, reduce waste and encourage the use of renewable energy sources.

In the immediate future, the circular economy has a potential to support Nigeria’s energy transition by promoting the use of renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and biomass. By using renewable energy, Nigeria’s dependence on fossil fuels will be reduced and will also achieve a more sustainable energy system.

Furthermore, circular economy principles will help reduce energy waste by encouraging more efficient use of energy resources and promoting the recycling and reuse of materials.

The circular economy has the potential to transform Nigeria’s energy sector by promoting sustainable development, reducing waste, and creating new opportunities for economic growth. However, significant efforts are needed to promote circularity in the energy sector, including policy support, investment in research and development, and public awareness campaigns

SA: Does it already make sense financially to use circular economy solutions in Nigerian small- and medium-sized projects?

RA: In Nigeria, where natural resources are limited and waste management is a significant challenge, adopting circular economy solutions have significant financial benefits for small- and medium-sized projects.

An example of a circular economy solution that can be financially beneficial for SMEs in Nigeria is the recycling of waste materials. By converting waste materials into new products, SMEs can reduce their reliance on raw materials, lower their operating costs, and generate additional revenue streams. By implementing circular economy principles such as product design for durability, reuse, and repair, SMEs will reduce their production costs, improve their resource efficiency and increase their competitiveness.

Another example of a circular economy solution that can benefit SMEs in Nigeria is the sharing economy. By sharing resources such as equipment, vehicles, and office space, SMEs can reduce their capital costs, lower their operational expenses, and increase their flexibility. Moreover, by collaborating with other SMEs, they can access new markets, share knowledge and expertise, and create new business opportunities.

In conclusion, adopting circular economy solutions can be financially viable for small and medium-sized projects in Nigeria. By reducing waste, optimizing resource use, and creating new revenue streams, SMEs can improve their financial performance, increase their competitiveness and contribute to sustainable development.

SA: In terms of putting it into reality, what does sustainable finance mean for Nigeria?

RA: Sustainable finance in Nigeria means financing economic activities that are environmentally and socially sustainable, with a long-term perspective. This includes investing in renewable energy, green infrastructure, climate-smart agriculture and digitalization, as well as supporting businesses that prioritize social responsibility and ethical practices. In practice, this could involve setting up green bonds and sustainable investment funds, encouraging sustainable lending practices among banks, and providing tax incentives for environment-friendly investments. By adopting sustainable finance principles, Nigeria can promote economic growth while also addressing critical environmental and social challenges such as climate change, poverty, and inequality.

SA: Can we ever fully transition to sustainable finance? Is that feasible? 

RA: Yes, it is feasible for Nigeria to fully transition to sustainable finance. Nigeria has already taken steps towards sustainable finance through the adoption of the Sustainable Banking Principles in 2012 and the issuance of green bonds in 2017, to mention a few.

However, there is still room for improvement. Nigeria can further encourage the adoption of sustainable finance by developing a regulatory framework that promotes ESG integration and disclosure, providing incentives for sustainable finance, and increasing awareness among stakeholders. Additionally, there needs to be more investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable agriculture, which can provide attractive investment opportunities.

Nigeria has great prospects to fully transition to sustainable finance, but it will require a concerted effort from all stakeholders, including government, financial institutions, investors, and the public.

SA: What other techniques can be used to get a project closer to the circular economy than the reuse and recycling of material resources?

RA: There are other techniques that are useful in getting a project closer to the circular economy than just the reuse and recycling of material resources. One of such techniques is “product life extension,” which involves designing products that last longer, can be repaired and have upgradeable components. This technique reduces the need for new products, thus conserving resources and reducing waste.

Another technique is “closed-loop manufacturing,” involves designing products with the end in mind, so that they can be easily disassembled and their components can be reused or recycled. This technique ensures that products remain in the economy for as long as possible, reducing the need for new resources.

Finally, “servitization” is an approach that will allows customers to access products without owning them, thereby reducing the demand for new products and enabling companies to retain ownership of their products, ensuring their reuse, and ultimately promoting the circular economy.

SA: What advice will you give Nigerian government in the adoption of a circular economy as opposed to the linear economy where we produce, use, and discard?

RA: Some recommendations for the Nigerian government to adopt a circular economy:

The government can support the development of circular business models, such as product-as-a-service, sharing economy platforms, and remanufacturing. They can also encourage consumers to adopt sustainable behaviors, such as recycling, reducing waste, and reusing products.
Support for the development of a circular economy, such as extended producer responsibility laws, eco-design standards and waste reduction targets will go a long way. The government can also provide financial incentives for companies to adopt circular business models and invest in sustainable infrastructure.

Authorities can also collaborate with stakeholders, such as the private sector, civil society and academia to promote circularity. This collaboration can involve joint research and development, knowledge sharing, and capacity building.

There should be public awareness by educating the public on the benefits of a circular economy and encourage them to adopt sustainable behaviors. Public campaigns, workshops, and community engagement activities will be efficient tools.

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