Africa ClimAccelerator Start-Up Spotlight: Green Cities

Liberia, like most African nations, has a young, rapidly growing population that is concentrated in urban centres like the capital city of Monrovia. But this population boom has resulted in a mounting solid waste problem. According to a World Bank report, Monrovia generates 800 tonnes of domestic solid waste per day as a result of high waste management costs and difficulties in collecting large quantities of waste generated by households and business.

James K. Mulbah, CEO of Green Cities, has founded a youth-based social enterprise that operates Liberia’s first waste segregation and recycling company. Founded in 2014, the start-up has grown into a successful business with 24 full-time staff members and has empowered hundreds of young people to earn income by tackling waste. The company has also expanded and mechanised its facilities while introducing waste collection vehicles to address the increasing demand for recycling.

Mulbah was one of 15 entrepreneurs selected from an application pool of nearly 700 start-ups who participated in the Africa ClimAccelerator – first pan-African accelerator focused on scaling the most promising climate-focused innovations.

“Plastic, organic and electronic waste are a major problem for countries across the continent and cause health and environmental problems. Our solution is to collect and recycle this waste into usable products such as geometric sets for students, latex cups for rubber farmers and for making toilets. We also turn organic waste into quality fertiliser and animal feed using Black Soldier Fly technology. We refurbish electronic waste and sell it at reduced costs,” added Mulbah.

Green Cities collects waste at a fee from individuals and youth groups and has contractual partnerships with banks, residential estates and restaurants. The waste is either delivered to the facility or collected by its waste collection vehicles. 

Mulbah explains that after the waste enters the facility, it is sorted and categorised into the respective recycling plants. About 45 per cent of the garbage collected is organic. It is first shredded and left for two to three months to decompose, and then turned into fertiliser that is packaged and sold to local farmers.

Plastic waste is washed, crushed and dried to form pellets or end products like geometric sets, mobile latrines, rubber latex collection cups and petroleum products such as diesel or gasoline through the process of pyrolysis, or thermal decomposition.

Unaltered e-waste is dismantled and exported to their waste partner, EnviroServe, the world’s largest electronics recycler in Dubai.

“What makes us stand out is that we are an integrated sustainable waste management company. We don’t just focus on one type of waste , but on three types of waste. This contributes to our growth and sustainability,” said Mulbah.

The company aims to have almost 1,300,000 customers from across Liberia, while also increasing revenue by 35 per cent every year.

“Our plan is to expand to other cities in Liberia, which will create more jobs, reduce carbon emissions and increase our revenue,” he added.

The Africa ClimAccelerator was designed to enhance the development and deployment of innovative technology to accelerate climate-positive business solutions for a net-zero Africa. From January to June 2022, programme was delivered by partner organisations GrowthAfrica and the Carbon Trust, supported by the Climate-KIC International Foundation and funded by the German Corporation for International Cooperation GmbH (‘GIZ’) exclusively on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (‘BMZ’).

An original version of this article was published here on 22 April.