Freitag, 12. Februar 2010

4. 2. Going back

With our last Nairas we managed to get to the airport, where we spent our last Euros to pay for excess luggage caused by the heavy video equipment. We wore our recycled waste caps from Accra, and everybody was smiling. The lady at the customs wanted my cap, and I promised her: “Next time!”. She was satisfied, and I could pass.

At 10:30 a.m. our plane left Lagos, bringing us back to the European cold.

We were driving all the way from Austria, Italy, Morocco, Mauretania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Togo, Ghana and Nigeria to explore different cultures and socio-economic realities via the Trash of Your Society (T.O.Y.S.), bringing our own trash from Austria in exchange. We explored the different definitions and values of what is called trash in our own country. We found out, that certain items thrown away in Austria are real treasures in the deserts of Mali, where people were fighting over our PET-bottles, which are basis of transaction for many self-employed entrepreneurs all along our route.

We found metal-recycling cooperatives, local and international NGOs, scavengers melting lead and copper out of otherwise useless electronic equipment from Europe and the USA, or restoring und re-selling things they find in the waste. We found artists, who transform waste into sculptures, installation and designer fashion.

It started to hurt throwing away things we knew by now that they are precious for our entrepreneurs, like plastic- or glass bottles, metal cans, old clothes… It was shocking to see, how greedy children grabbed for a mango peel recklessly thrown away, or a crumble of sugar; to see people eating from the dumpsite, together with cows, goats and sheep. And of course we started to value water, which is not available in sufficient quality and quantity for so many people along our way.

At the end we learned, that real progress is possible, when the government is interested in making things better for their people. In 2005, I experienced most districts of Lagos as a huge dumpsite, now you see the LAWMA-staff in their orange overalls cleaning up the streets all over the city.

Most of all, we found wonderful trash dividends for our lucky shareholders.

It is still possible to buy shares, email to

1 share of Eur 35,- brings you a guaranteed unit of trash from Africa, have a look at

A work by trash-artist ASTON from Cotonou will be raffled off between all our shareholders at the AGM (Annual General Meeting) of our up-and-coming company.

We thank all our partners, sponsors, shareholders, supporters, interviewpartners and collegues:

O.N.G. Auve-garde des plages de la baie du levrier, O.N.G. Arbre, O.N.G. Zazou, Martial Pouret and Sophie (Mauretania), Momo le Magnifique, Cooperative des Forgerons et Ferblantiers Jama Jigi Marche Medine, Mamadou (Mali), Oxfam Quebec, Jaqueline Djidonou, ASTON (Benin), Mike Anane, John Owoo, Tei Mensah Huagie - Not a Waste Recycling Studio (Ghana), LAWMA, Akintunde Akinleye (Nigeria), Wendelin Schmidt (D) and many others.

Austria: Max and Markus Gansberger, Klaus Meßner, Schaumbad – Freies Atelierhaus Graz, Vice-Mayor Lisa Rücker; Markus Wilfling, Michael Maier, The Syndicate, Südwind, Pöttinger Entsorgungstechnik, WKO Sekundärrohstoffhandel Steiermark, Die Entstopfer, Grüne Akademie, Wolfgang Croce/Croce & Wir; Land Steiermark, bm:ukk, Cinestyria Filmkunst

Donnerstag, 11. Februar 2010

3. 2. LAWMA - Ojota dumpsite, Lagos, Nigeria

Finally at LAWMA – Lagos Waste Management Authority. Managing director Ole Oresanya welcomed us in his office.

What happened to Lagos within the last years? Mr. Oresanya confirmed, that Lagos had a huge waste-problem several years ago. The city now has about 18 million inhabitants, which means: when everybody drops a piece of paper a day, it makes 18 million pieces of waste! Since the democratisation of Nigeria in 1999, the government decided to make a plan to keep Lagos clean, as lots of waste means more frustration, more aggression, and more crime.

Together with LAWMA, the government developed a concept for efficient waste management, and since a few years, it really works.

Lagos generates about 9,000 metric tons of wastes daily (0.5 kg/person/day), 80 percent of this waste can be recycled. Under the city’s recycling initiative called ‘zero waste programme’, organic waste, which makes up 60 percent of the city’s waste is being recycled into compost. This is used for a green programme aimed at beautifying the city with trees and flowers. Additionally, Oresanya is looking at waste as a tool of job creation and poverty reduction.

LAWMA didn´t have half of the lorries they needed, so they included private companies to bring the waste to the dumpsites. In the meantime, they have almost half the lorries they need - around 500.

Joachim will write more about LAWMA.

We went to their biggest landfill in Ojota, Lagos to interview the scavengers there, together with Nigerian photographer Akintunde Akinleye.

After arriving, the geologist of LAWMA was about to go to a meeting. Quickly she explained, that the smoke coming out of parts of the dumpsite due to the high pressure of waste will be used for methan gas production soon.

There are about 2000 scavengers collecting useful waste on Ojota dumpsite every day. Some of them live there, some just go there to work. Many of them come from other Nigerian states. They are all independent contractors, working under highly dangerous conditions: caterpillars and lorries are rolling between people who try to grab the most precious things before the others get them.

The scavengers are mostly specialised: some on collecting cloth, plastic, metal or paper, some collect suitcases and bags, repair them and sell them on the nearby second-hand market. E-waste is not allowed on site, but some does appear from the general waste collected all over Lagos.

People are cooking and eating between the waste, white birds join them. Patricia, one of the scavengers, offered to cook pasta for us. Some people did not want us to take photos of them, they were afraid, that their friends and family might find out, where they work. Some were really proud of their work and appreciated us being with them in the waste and bad smells. When I started to collect dividends for our lucky shareholders, they started to respect us being one of them – although a bit stupid, because we did not collect the “valuable” waste.

Mittwoch, 10. Februar 2010

2. 2. No waste land

The meeting with LAWMA director was postponed to Wednesday, so we decided to visit Heinrich Böll Foundation and Goethe Institute in search of possible partners, who could help us with shipping our dividends, and maybe help us to bring the exhibition to Lagos.

With Monika Umunna of Heinrich Boell Foundation we discussed CO2 emissions in Africa: We have seen so much fire and smoke from Benin to Togo, Ghana and Nigeria, but there is no measuring, no statistics, no awareness. Then Monika introduced us to the staff of Goethe Institute, which is located in the offices of Boell Foundation until they can move to their new building in March.

After this, we decided to visit CCA Lagos - Center of Contemporary Art, run by Bisi Silva. We could not afford expensive taxies, so we went to take a “Danfor” – small, yellow VW-busses, the public transport of Lagos. They take 8 passengers.

After half an hour of waiting with locals, most of them disappeared and advised us to go a few stops back, because all Danfors coming to this stop were packed with people already and did not take more. We went to the big street to stop a motorbike taxi – we had good experiences with this way of transport from Cotonou. No, they are not allowed to drive out of their own district. They would do it anyway, but it would cost around Eur 15,- for both of us, thank you. For Eur 1,- they would bring us to a better bus stop. On the way, they asked every Danfor-driver if he would go our direction, and soon we were on our way.

Looking for CCA, we had to ask for directions several times, which was fun, because people were really helpful and nice. The house welcomed us with a bicycle made of used metal cans on the terrace. Bisi showed us her library with a comprehensive collection of books and magazines on African art, women´s art, feminism, as well as catalogues of notable international art events. She just had an international exhibition on “Old News”, in collaboration with a Danish gallery.

How about the reaction of the Lagos art audience? Well – collectors are irritated, they don´t see artworks they can buy…

After this inspiring visit we took a walk in the quarter, collected some dividends, and then took a Danfor back to our hotel – in the go-slow time between 6 - 8 p.m., and it took us precisely from 6 – 8 p.m to get there.

Later in the night, we visited the Fela Kuti Shrine.

Resumee of our day out: The waste on Lagos streets is disappointing. My inspiration to start the project was a visit in Lagos in 2005, where I was impressed by the huge amounts of trash on all streets. This was the El Dorado of waste, here I wanted to return and explore. And now: almost nothing, except the LAWMA-women in orange overalls, brushing and collecting waste everywhere we were going.

Tomorrow we finally would meet the LAWMA-officials, find out what happend, and then visit their huge landfill.