Plastic waste is a big problem in Kenya. According to a study, its capital alone, Nairobi, produces approximately 2400 tonnes of waste daily, with 20 per cent as plastic waste. Out of this, only 45 per cent is recycled versus the 80 per cent target of the National Environment Management Authority.
Nairobi local Nzambi Matee, founder of construction supply company Gjenge Makers, told Reuters she was “tired of being on the sidelines” and decided to help find a solution for Kenya’s plastic waste problem.
With a background in materials engineering, Matee designed a brick made of recycled plastic and sand, heated and compressed to produce a solid yet sustainable alternative to concrete.
“Our product is almost five to seven times stronger than concrete,” Matee told Reuters.
The company gets supplies of plastic waste from factories for free, although Matee mentioned that sometimes they pay for the plastic from other recyclers.
The plastics used are:
High-density polyethylene, used in milk and shampoo bottles.
Low-density polyethylene, often used for bags for cereals or sandwiches.
Polypropylene, used for ropes, flip-top lids and buckets.
However, the construction company does not work with polyethylene terephthalate or PET, commonly used for plastic bottles. (the reason for that is unclear)
Since its founding in 2017, Matee’s factory has recycled 20 tonnes of plastic waste, and she hopes to treble her production capacity by the end of this year.