Plastic waste is a major problem across the world and recycling has become one of the major goals in an effort to reduce global warming. Globally, more than 400 million metric tonnes of plastic waste is produced annually. Lagos, Nigeria’s megacity of nearly 16 million people, produces between 13,000 and 15,000 metric tonnes of waste per day of which 2,250 metric tonnes is plastic.

As an environmental scientist with a Masters degree in Environmental Toxicology and Pollution, Fela Akinse wanted to find sustainable ways of containing or reducing the amount of plastic waste in the environment.

He 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.

“There is over 5 trillion plastic waste floating in our canals and oceans, which can either be a problem or an opportunity. We set out to use our patented technology to make recycled plastic shoes,” said Akinse, the Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Salubata.

Plastic does not decompose, and therefore, any piece of plastic that ends up dumped in the environment will still be around for centuries. The negative impacts are mostly felt by underserved communities, especially women.

Salubata has developed an innovative and stylish way of dealing with plastic waste through fashion. The Nigerian-based company was formed in 2018 and specialises in making shoes from recycled plastic.

The company strives to make durable, high-quality stylish shoes that are breathable, meaning they can be worn without socks. They can also be customised according to the taste and specifications of the customer. This adds to the shoe’s value and brand loyalty.

“Our shoes are cool to wear because of the design. They are also affordable because they cost at least 75 per cent less than what our competitors offer. They are also durable because the soles are flexible,” said Akinse.

The company has made tremendous progress and has been able to spread its roots to three major cities in Nigeria: Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt. The solution contributes to the circular economy of these cities by recycling plastic waste found in the environment.

“Our mission is to invent lifestyle technology that helps people and the planet through the continuous production of plastic-recycled shoes. We are planning to scale our selling points across Africa, France, Germany, Italy, the USA, and Canada,” added Akinse.

The company, which employs designers and environmental scientists, goes beyond recycling used shoes. For every shoe purchased, 5 per cent of the amount is committed to feeding starving children and empowering women in underserved communities.

Akinse believes that the project has the potential to scale globally within five years from now. The company plans to constantly innovate and expand to a wider range of products to become a global brand

“It is a profitable business and all we need is to scale our operations to become more profitable,” 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 13 April.