When Robert T. Davis founded Entrepreneurial Action in Us (ENACTUS), formerly known as Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), in 1975, little did he know that the impact of the organisation would resonates to the far western part of Africa. More than four decades after, the organisation has over 72,000 volunteers, mostly students who are social innovators driven by entrepreneurial values, across 1,730 campuses in 36 countries, positively impacting the lives of 1.3 million people each year.
In a bid to further pursue the organisation’s vision in creating a better world while developing the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders and social innovators, the ENACTUS team from Tai Solarin University of Education is keen on achieving a greener planet through their innovative projects dedicated to the eradication of plastic wastes on the planet. The usage of plastics ranges from plastic bags, helmets, incubators, equipment for clean drinking water and of course, sanitary pads among many others.
According to a Research Gate publication, the conventional sanitary pads comprises of series of layers such as fluid permeable surface (topsheet), an absorbent core, and an impermeable backing with adhesive. Similarly, from a laboratory analysis carried out by the team, they found out that a sanitary pad contains “bisphenol and 90% plastic.
This forms the basis of the team’s project – the need to reduce plastic wastes and makes the sanitary pads cost affordable to its users. To achieve this, the team launched P’Pal Sanitary Company, the first ever plastic-free sanitary pad company in Nigeria in 2020. They are replacing plastics materials with fibres extracted from banana stems. In comparison with the conventional sanitary pad that takes over 400 years to degrade, this plastic-free sanitary pad “degrades in only three months”, the team leader, Comfort Omiyale uttered excitedly.
Closely related with the plastic-free sanitary pad company is the team’s second social enterprise named Fibban Enterprise. An average lifespan for the usage of plastics materials, most especially plastic bags and pet bottles, ranges from three minutes to five minutes before they are indiscriminately disposed. In addition to taking hundreds of years to dispose, Kelvin Ujeh, an environmentalist states that: “toxic substances are released into the soil when plastic bags perish under sunlight and, if plastic bags are burned; they release a toxic substance into the air causing ambient air pollution”.
These and many more are the reasons why the team’s Fibban Enterprises is campaigning against the usage of plastic bags by stores, restaurants and supermarkets across the country. The enterprise is not only signing a petition against the usage of plastic bags: it is also replacing plastic bags with fibers bags extracted from the stems of bananas.
The “choice for banana fibers hinge on the fact that it degrades quickly, costs almost nothing to extract, and proves as the best material for an environmentally friendly product”, the team lead explained.
Finally, a walk around most university campuses would leave you mystified. The reason is not farfetched: the improper disposal of pet bottles. These pet bottles clog the drainage system and form a horrible sight to behold. Thus, this ENACTUS team from Tai Solarin University of Education creates waste bins from thousands of pet bottles collected from fellow students which are subsequently deployed around the university campus.
All in all, directly and indirectly, this group of students are further pursuing Sustainable Development Goals 1,2,3, 13, 14 and 15 thereby leading a global change in the process.