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Somali plastics processor a global recycling hero

Most associate Somalia in East Africa more with drought and tribal wars than award-winning recycling practices but it is home to a ‘Recycling Hero’.

Somalia may be bottom of the global Environmental Performance Index, which ranks 180 countries on their sustainability performance, but Abdi Hirsi proves there is room for sustainability. In the early 2000s Hirsi started as volunteer with a motto of ‘waste is a resource’. Now he owns a pioneering recycling company based in the capital Mogadishu. What began with a plastics recycling plant with a World Bank grant is today a recycling platform producing products for construction and serving 17 city districts.

Hirsi is one of ten Recycling Heroes 2021 announced by the Global Recycling Foundation to mark Global Recycling Day (18 March). They have each won a EUR 500 prize to mark their ‘dedication and innovation in local recycling’. The winners were selected from nominations received from several countries across the globe. Their work spans all parts of the recycling industry from plastic to textiles and household items.


Green Axis, Nigeria – A recycling project to make the city of Enugu a greener place to live. Volunteers clean up and collect recyclables whilst helping to save the environment. The group also runs local educational programmes on the importance of recycling.

Bokashi Bran, South Africa – Promotes the recycling of food waste to compost using its unique bokashi [fermented organic matter] system. To date, it has guided customers to divert about 30 000 tonnes of food waste from landfill. It manufactures bokashi on a commercial scale while providing training and education on food waste separation at source and composting. Composting food waste cuts GHG by 98%.

EcoAct,Tanzania, A social enterprise, manufacturing eco-friendly building materials from plastic waste by using an in-house technology ‘Waxy II Technology’, a chemical-free and energy conserving plastic extrusion system which supports the circular economy whilst preserving forests by reducing the consumption of timber.

International WeLoveU Foundation, South Korea – Launched in 2001 and today working in 63 countries, the UN-associated foundation helps promote the environment by planting trees and promoting clean-up campaigns across beaches, parks and mountainous areas. Most recently, WeLoveU has helped raise awareness of increased plastic pollution during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dgrade, Dubai, UAE – Working with more than 200 schools in UAE promoting beach clean-up campaigns, organising education workshops and increasing the collection of plastics which is used in the manufacture of sustainable clothing.

Eco-Train, Canada – Promotes a phone case collection and recycling programme. The speed of change in the phone industry results in vast quantities of discarded phone covers and phones, so promoting recycling in this sector is of the utmost importance.

Metal Shredder, Hungary – An innovative way of extracting elements from X-ray films and promoting the use of recovered silver and extracts to make filters for face masks during the Covid crisis. The main focus is the sustainable and efficient recycling of e-scrap and the extraction of precious and base metals from end-of-life components.

Eco Spindles, Sri Lanka – Claims to be the largest recycler in Sri Lanka. Produces yarn from PET flakes collected on beaches, at ports and in schools. Has also introduced a recycling awareness app.

Rien Voets, the Netherlands – Described as a symbol of the many people who voluntarily work to clean our living environment every day. After retiring as a teacher, Voets joined a local municipality to work as a volunteer waste picker. Every day, he goes out on his bike and trailer to collect waste from the streets in his home town.

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