September 24, 2023

Kenyan inventor turns plastic into bricks

Kenyan inventor turns plastic into bricks

“Plastic still has value,” said Nzambi Matee of the mountains of discarded oil drums, laundry buckets, yoghurt tubs and other trash being shredded into colourful flakes at her Nairobi factory.

“I believe that plastic is one of the misunderstood materials.”

Her start-up recycles tonnes of plastic intended for landfills into eco-friendly bricks that are stronger, cheaper, and lighter than concrete, as the 30-year-old Kenyan engineer and inventor knows.

These ecological paving blocks, which she designed herself, already line Nairobi’s roads, driveways, and walkways, but could soon be used as an alternative building material for low-cost housing.

Every day, her company, Gjenge Makers, produces 1,500 bricks out of industrial and domestic plastic that would otherwise end up in the city’s enormous landfills.

The young entrepreneur quit a job in oil and gas — the very industry that makes plastic from fossil fuels — to explore recycling after being shocked at how little trash was being reused.

“In Nairobi, we generate about 500 metric tonnes of plastic waste every single day, and only a fraction of that is recycled,” said Matee, who bounds with the energy around the factory floor in denim overalls and trainers.

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