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Making Billions from Trash: Inside the World’s Largest Packaging Paper Company

Entrepreneurs are known for having a nose for opportunities, even in the most unimaginable places, such as waste. The knack for business opportunity led Zhang Yin to found a waste paper recycling company, Nine Dragons Paper Holdings. This step on the right path saw her making billions from trash and becoming one of the wealthiest people in China, worth about $1.4 billion.

With the constant increase in the need for packaging paper, the company is currently worth about $29.09 billion in market capitalisation and is sure to increase in value.

Paper waste business model

As long as there is paper, there will always be a market for waste paper recycling. Coupled with the belief that ‘Waste paper is like a forest. Paper recycles itself, generation after generation,’ she built her business to be one of the best in America and China. She did it by leveraging the scarcity of paper in Hong Kong during that period.

Compared to Hong Kong, where there was a shortage of paper, there was a high increase in paper waste in America and Europe. With this, she collected waste papers from America and Europe and shipped them to China for recycling into cardboards. These are then used to repackage products such as toys, electronics and furniture made in China and shipped back to other countries. After usage, the waste cardboard papers are shipped back to China for recycling. This way, she creates a continuous cycle that generates billions of dollars. 

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As of 2018, Eurostat revealed that Europeans produce an average of 492kg of municipal waste yearly, which is 220 million. Paper waste accounts for 30%. Also, statistics from the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) in 2018 showed that paper and paperboards were the major component of municipal solid waste (MSW). It was 67.4 million tons which is 23.1% of the total MSW in 2018.

This shows that the market cannot be saturated. Also, globally the demand for packaging is increasing, with the industry worth about $851 billion by 2022. Paperboard and paper packaging has approximately $213.4 billion of the projected $851 billion for 2022. This means there is a market for Nigerians if adequately leveraged.

The market prospects for Nigerians

Apart from Chinese entrepreneur Zhang Yin, some entrepreneurs are also making billions from the trash in Nigeria.

Entrepreneurs such as Isaac Durojaiye, the founder of the mobile public toilet system Dignified Mobile Toilets (DMT) in Nigeria and Intissar Bashir Kurfi, who is making interlocking tiles from discarded plastic bottles and pure water sachets.

With the increase in waste and lack of proper disposal, waste recycling is a viable business to start. According to the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) report, Nigeria generates more than 32 million tonnes of solid waste yearly. By capitalising on the trash, you can make millions and solve the country’s waste disposal and recycling problem.

The World Bank also projected that it is to increase by 2050 to 107 million tonnes. While it is an opportunity to leverage, it is also a threat if the opportunity is untaken.

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