Yaya Joné Bruno, the young leader in recycling plastic waste in Côte d'Ivoire

“Get up and fight!” This is the motto that inspires Yaya Koné Bruno on a daily basis. He is one of those young Ivorians that give me hope in my country, which is continuing to suffer from all the wounds accumulated over the years…

Yaya Koné Bruno is a 35 year-old entrepreneur who decided to embark upon an adventure that might seem crazy in countries that give little thought to protecting the environment. He is the co-founder of the startup Coliba, that uses technology to recycle and reuse plastic waste via an online or mobile app or text message.

This start-up enables households and businesses to calculate the value of their waste whilst securing a reliable source of raw materials for local and international industries.

At the touch of a button, a person who uses the Coliba mobile app is geolocated in real time, and in under half an hour a team comes and collects the plastic waste. In exchange, Coliba rewards households with redeemable points depending on the volume and quality of the recyclable materials they provide. Coliba currently works with 50 pre-collectors who have the capacity to pre-collect up to 2 tonnes of plastic a month, and has exclusive contracts with hotel and restaurant chains.

The ultimate goal of Yaya Koné Bruno’s start-up is to transform the waste recovered into ready-to-use raw material.

This material will then be sold to the automotive, construction and textile industries and to any businesses that need it. This project, he says, is an effective way of enabling inhabitants to have eco-friendly habits whilst being paid.

Yaya Koné Bruno’s education did not predestine him to become a passionate startupper. Indeed, with a 2-year masters in research from the University of Bouake and an MBA in operational management and sustainable development from the Institut Supérieur de Commerce (ISC Paris business school), he could no doubt have ended up as a private sector employee. However, two major triggers definitively made him a social entrepreneur in the field of ecological innovation.

The first was indubitably the fact that at one stage he became aware that plastic waste management is more than ever a major issue for large African cities such as Abidjan.
Every year, the Abidjan district produces 190,000 tonnes of plastic waste, and only 10% of this waste is recycled. The remaining 90% ends up littering the streets, filling the gutters or being burnt or buried underground…

This situation has catastrophic consequences not only on the environment, but also on public health.

“With Coliba, I therefore set myself the goal of making our cities clean and pleasant places to live, because I refuse to sit back and let African populations wallow in filth. Another powerful argument is that this sector is economically viable, with the former Ivorian Prime Minister estimating it to be worth over 20 billion CFA francs with more than 10,000 potential jobs”, he says.

The second trigger was born of the fact that Yaya Koné Bruno has always wanted to do something that could have a significant positive impact on people’s lives.

“Thanks to Coliba, I have an opportunity to actively contribute to the African continent’s development, and for me that’s truly something wonderful”.

He also points out seemingly trivial things that, each day, have a significant effect on the environment.

“This notably includes putting all of one’s waste into the same bin. Our research shows that, in Côte d’Ivoire, 90% of people population do not sort their waste”.

Despite this damning reality, Yaya Koné Bruno is optimistic that Côte d’Ivoire, and in particular the city of Abidjan, can become 100% eco-friendly places.

“But people will need to be educated about and made aware of how important it is to have a green and eco-friendly city. Indeed Coliba, having gauged this impact, is initiating awareness-raising campaigns in schools and especially in poor districts of Abidjan. We are making people aware of the importance of sorting their waste whilst introducing the notion of green towns, thus far terms reserved for the Ivorian elite. We have to deconstruct these notions, which is precisely what we’re doing. The endgame is to say that today, a green and sustainable town offers good living conditions and thus improves our life expectancy”, he argues.

Today, Yaya Koné Bruno has a clear vision of his start-up Coliba’s future development: “Our 5-year strategic objective is to be able to process 30,000 tonnes of plastic in 4 other countries – Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and Cameroon – and generate 5 billion CFA francs in revenue with a net profit of 25%”, he states. He is also planning to recruit 1,200 people, mostly women, to work in our factories. “These women will have access to professional training enabling them to enhance their skill set. Our goal is to provide jobs for these women who play a major economic role in households.”

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