Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
The Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO), Imo state, is not just setting the pace in technical training but has gone a step further in creating avenues to boost its internally generated revenue through recycling of garbage.
Not many would believe the school has gigantic machinery for recycling of waste capable of turning in at least N100million annually. With the recycling plant; the current effort of the university is geared towards making a fortune from waste.
FUTO has manufactured some fine products such as bottled water, flour meals, beverages and an automobile known as the A-car.
Although research on the A-car, according to Vice Chancellor, Professor Francis Eze, has been suspended due to technological advancement which those behind it were yet to meet up with, but the school has also delved into other innovations to improve its revenue base.
Some of the products expected soon to hit the market are paints, hanger, plates, spoons, interlocking, polythene bags, tiles and others.
Fortunately, according to the VC, all the recycling machines were fabricated by students of the institution. The machines crush and grind the recycled products.
A laboratory supervisor, polymer and textile engineering, Vincent Uchegbu who elucidated on the new FUTO project, said it started in April this year, with the help and encouragement of the VC.
“The project was a brainchild of the VC, he wanted everywhere to be clean, so we started mopping up the dirt in the school, the idea really helped to keep the school compound neat.
“Then we went further to picking the plastic and bottles from the refuse, we gathered a whole lot of it, we were using the female staff initially before we experimented on some of the products we had separated.
“Students were later involved through the help and encouragement of the department of polymer, they began inventing these machines that are used in crushing the bottles and other recycled products”, Uchegbu explained.
Explaining further on how the products are manufactured, he said: “We pick the ones we need from the refuse and thoroughly wash and sterilise them before we start crushing them with the machine.
The VC is highly elated by the innovation, he is optimistic that the school will make a lot of money from recycling of the waste; he said that already some companies have started keying into the project.
“We wish to make a lot of money from recycling of this waste, as you can see, it has helped to keep our school compound clean. We have some companies already indicating interest to partner with us.
“All these machines you see here are fabricated by the students, they used it as their projects and today the school is better for it, although we have not started selling in the market, we have to put everything right before we venture into the market.”
Although the university has several products, the laboratory supervisor said that this very project will make a lot of money for the institution, describing it as a dream they would all like to come true.
One of the brains behind the project, Nnadi Iheaturu, an engineer, said the school was particularly happy about the injections moulding machine.
“This is a laudable project, we are happy about these recycled products, the paints are good but I think I love the injection moulders, all these products are excellent, look at the polymer brick, it’s permeable in water, the interlocking is another wonderful brand,” Iheaturu said.
A student from the chemical engineering department of the school, Nonsochukwu Obidike expressed joy for being part of the success story, although he said it was not as easy as it looked.
He explained that it could be hazardous if the technicalities were not properly observed.
“Sterilisation of the refuse is very important, it helps neutralise the bacteria and harmful microorganisms in the refuse, also during crushing of the bottles, extra carefulness have to be observed to avoid injury”, Obidike said.
FUTO according to the VC has been chosen among six universities in the country to host World Bank sponsored Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Procurement, Environment and Social Standards Enhancement, because of its excellent research ability.
This same research has made FUTO discover the world of economic value in waste recycling.
In addition to this, Eze announced that a committee on environment and waste management has also developed a proposal on generation of electricity from heterogeneous waste materials by the institution.
The VC stated that the project was still begging for funding, and therefore, appealed to donor agencies to support the project to enable them achieve the first indigenous generation of electricity from waste materials.
Also, he stated that on completion of the project, the priority would be to satisfy their immediate community and then move to larger markets.