The Platform


Olabanke Subair, founder of Cyrus45 Factory, upcycles used tires into modern furniture, tackling waste and inspiring women in a male-dominated industry.

Across the world, end-of-life tires, or used tires, are considered unsuitable for use as car owners change them due to wear, irreparable damage, or deviation from the manufacturer’s original specifications. These tires are among the largest and most problematic sources of waste, due to the large volume produced. Up to 1.5 billion tires are discarded every year.

The European Union (EU) has led the way, with 100% of tires processed in some manner. Some countries levy a tax on tires, and then the government takes charge of them. Most EU countries have made tire companies responsible for taking them back at the end of their lives. Britain has a free market for end-of-use tires, which manages to deal with 95% of them.

In developing countries of Africa, used tires are often dumped in landfills, creating significant environmental challenges. Although the continent lacks specific statistics on used tires, the World Bank Urban Development Series report indicates approximately 62 million tons of municipal waste are generated in Africa per year.

Nigeria generates 43.2 million tonnes of waste annually and is expected to generate an estimated 72.46 million tonnes of waste by 2025. Despite several policies, regulations, and regulatory bodies attempting to address these issues, solid waste management remains one of the most pressing environmental challenges in urban and rural Nigeria.

Olabanke Subair (@olabankesubair), a female entrepreneur, is tackling this problem by upcycling used tires into ultra-modern furniture. In 2016, she founded Cyrus45 Factory, a bespoke, avant-garde upcycling initiative that transforms tires into artful furniture for enthusiasts. She sources discarded tires from refuse dumps, incinerators, and roadside or buys them from car owners looking to exchange theirs for new ones.

The millennial is passionate about her project. She is dedicated to minimizing pollution and motivating other women inspired by her work in a predominantly male-dominated industry.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Cyrus45 Factory (

Our conversation, conducted via Zoom and edited only for clarity, follows.

At what point did the idea of tackling the problem of used tires begin to call your attention?

It was a matter of coincidence. I was a blogger, and my neighbors had plenty of used tires they wanted to throw away. I have always loved to revamp old items, believing that their life cycle can be extended. When I saw that they wanted to discard their used car tires, I just knew it wasn’t good for the environment. So, I asked them to give me the tires, thinking I’d figure out what to do with them. That’s how I started.

When did you envision this as a good business opportunity?

Initially, I just wanted to extend the life cycle of these tires through art. I didn’t realize the extent of the problem with tire waste until I started. As I researched, read, and learned more about it, I saw that what I was doing was beyond creating art—I was also tackling an environmental problem. It was at this point that the business angle emerged.

How has your work helped conceptualize climate change for Nigerians?

When people see our furniture pieces, whether at exhibitions or on our social media pages, it becomes an opportunity to educate them. We explain the dangers of tire burning and the challenges of dealing with tire waste due to its non-biodegradable nature. It’s always an opportunity to teach Nigerians the proper way to manage tire waste.

How can we better educate the populace?

Incentives could be a solution. Several recycling companies incentivize waste bringers, giving them points that convert to money when they bring in waste from their communities. I believe incentivized programs will encourage people to participate more in recycling efforts.

How many used and discarded tires have you upcycled? Has it made a dent?

So far, we have recycled over 3,000 tires. These are tires that would have ended up in landfills, been burnt, or littered around.

How are you making consumers aware of your products?

Most of our clients discover us through social media posts. A picture of me on social media went viral within a short period, which brought a lot of attention. We get most of our clients via Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn. We also connect with potential clients at exhibitions.

You won the Most Promising Youth Entrepreneur and were invited to the African Union in Ethiopia to speak about upcycling and entrepreneurship. You also won the Ace Award for Best Eco-Friendly Product in 2018. What did these recognitions mean to you?

The first recognition was surprising because I was new to the industry. It was the validation I needed to know I was doing the right thing. The Ace Award was less surprising because I had established my presence in the space. These recognitions have pressured me to work harder, knowing that all eyes are on me. It’s exciting and encouraging.

Can you touch on your initiative to encourage more women in a society like Nigeria?

At Cyrus45, we focus on empowering women in a male-dominated industry. Most of our interns are women. When we work on projects, especially on-site, seeing young women doing carpentry and handling tools surprises people. It challenges the notion that women can’t do what men can. Being a woman in this field is empowering.

Is creativity something that runs in your family?

Yes, creativity runs deep in my family. My mum was very creative, turning old items into valuable ones. My big sister is a make-up artist, also very creative. For me, I have always liked to try different things. When everyone is going one way, I like to go the opposite.

Tire recycling in Nigeria is still in its infancy, and the government has done little to tackle the problem. Is this resistance challenging?

The driving force for me has always been God and the impact I want to make. When I started, my company was called Revamp, but I wasn’t sure about it. I prayed and got the name Cyrus45 from the scripture in Isaiah 45, which connected with me. God and the impact we make are my driving forces.

Do you think turning tires into furniture can help reduce deforestation?

Yes, I believe it can help reduce deforestation. About 70 to 75% of our furniture designs are made from tires. While it won’t eradicate the need for wood materials entirely, it can contribute to reducing deforestation.

Can you touch on the actual process of turning tires into furniture?

First, we collect the tires, whether from landfills, communities, or roadsides. Sometimes we engage scavengers and pay them a token. We clean and wash the tires thoroughly using disinfectants. I come up with the furniture structure and designs, then work with my production team to create the pieces. Finally, we package them for delivery.

What should the government’s role be in addressing this problem?

The government needs to improve Nigeria’s transportation system. In places like Europe, people use bicycles or the metro, reducing the number of cars and the associated tire waste. In Nigeria, there’s a culture of flamboyance where everyone wants to own a car. A functional train system could reduce carbon emissions and tire waste.

What challenges have you faced over the years, and how have you addressed them?

We’ve faced numerous challenges, like any startup. These include government regulations and taxes. Thankfully, a law enacted in 2020 exempts businesses making less than $18,000 from paying taxes. Funding has been another huge challenge, especially since manufacturing is capital-intensive. Things improved when we started receiving grants.

Ayo Omotola is a Nigeria-based independent contributor covering health, technology, and development for local and international publications. He is also a creative writer whose book ‘A Night in The Morning’ has been approved for students by the Lagos State Government. He strongly believes in SDG4, which stresses education for all.