Romco Group talks sustainable recycling operations in Africa

As Founder and CEO of Romco Group, Ray witnesses and takes action against environmental concerns plaguing West Africa

Tell us about working in Nigeria

There have been so many peaks and troughs—more troughs than peaks, if you like—to actually get us to where we are today, and that's the story that I resonate with. But, again, I already knew that I was mad for coming out here. Then that was further cementing the idea that I'm above my weight here. Should I really look at putting the brakes on this and cooling it down? There's no shame in failure, or learning from it and trying something else. But, I kept it going. Fast forward to 2021, here we are today, pushing through, and hopefully looking to slash our targets. 

What have you achieved or are currently working on? 

We're looking to go to about U$8mn in revenue. This year we will. We've got a run rate of close to US$38mn and should smash that even further. We're really pushing through that and we're looking to open up around seven plants within the next five years. I'm actually looking to stretch that target even further now and push it up to 10 plants, as we see potential cyber opportunities. 

We conceptualised the move to Ghana last year, but because of COVID-19, we were restricted in our movement in terms of sourcing goods and people. We actually managed to finalise everything, wrap everything up, and launch earlier this year. We've got Ghana in play now, and we've got Nigeria in play. Across all our facilities, we're now operating on a land size of close to seven acres.

We recycle anything that comes through our doors. We’re committed to making sure that nothing goes back into landfill, but obviously our core products, what we actually recycle, are mainly aluminium and copper products. However, we're not limiting ourselves to that. We have looked at lithium as a key diversification mechanism, or metal if you like, and we've also looked at plastics as well. 

Who is buying recycled materials from Romco? 

The manufacturer of your car CD player, those guys are buying our metals. The plane you use to get to your destination, that company that owns the plane is buying our materials. The drinks you'll most likely consume today, that company is buying our materials. Basically, it's essential for a lot of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) or just in general production. You'll find that with this transition to a more green economy, you're probably seeing a lot of these metals being used, or they already are being used, in the expansion of power grids, as we see the roll-out of more EVs, the renewable energy roll-out, and sustainable housing.

What's next for Romco?

You're not going to be turning over stainless or silver cutlery, so the next more affordable option is going to be, more than likely, aluminium knives and forks or some type of base metal. But aluminium is the more affordable option and less corrosive. So, more than likely, that will be

be used in replacement of old plastic. Again, our products are literally being used every day. The minute we stop providing materials, there's a complete shutdown. These would be deemed essential. I seem to find myself working in these essential roles. It's always happening. 

Are you anticipating any future challenges?

Nothing more unusual than the challenges that we have faced already, in building the business. We plan to be global leaders of recycling. We plan to one day be listed on the FTSE 100 company with billions in revenue. At the same time, we hope to achieve all our impact goals that we've set out by way of our UN sustainable development goals.

We're first on the ground in terms of actually hitting all the points or all the agendas: no poverty; good health and wellbeing. In terms of gender and equality, if you come to our plant, you’ll see that 50% of our staff are women. We foster decent work and economic growth, Sustainable cities and communities—and when I mention sustainable cities and communities, I've literally seen where we operate now, in Lagos in particular, and how that has developed into a massive community and the economy that's been developed around our business is absolutely immense.

 

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