Young Champions of the Earth: Turning Plastics Into Paving in Kenya

Photo-illustration: Pixabay

A Kenyan entrepreneur is being lauded by the UN for developing a machine that recycles discarded plastic into paving stones for use in construction projects.

Nzambi Matee’s invention not only keeps plastic out of landfill sites, it also offers a cheaper alternative to conventional concrete paving slabs.

“I am a self-driven individual, serial entrepreneur and a self-taught hardware designer and mechanical engineer. I have a background in physics and material engineering with a passion for creating sustainable solutions I used design thinking experience to start Gjenge Makers with the mission to convert plastic waste into lower cost alternative building products, hence tackling plastic waste pollution and Kenya’s inadequate housing problem”, says Nzambi Matee.

Gjenge Makers – building a greener Kenya

Gjenge Makers Ltd is a sustainable, alternative and affordable, building products manufacturing company. Gjenge Makers has cut a niche as a manufacturing trailblazer in the provision of beautiful and sustainable alternative building materials. Currently we are producing eco-friendly pavers that are made of a composite of recycled waste plastic and sand. We have partnered with different manufacturers of plastics bottle tops and seals in the beverage and pharmaceutical industries here in Kenya, from whom we collect offcuts and scraps. This is amalgamated with discarded single use plastics that our informal waste collectors deliver to us, which we jointly use to produce the pavers, while providing them with a stable income. We have financially empowered over 112 individuals the majority of whom are women and youth groups who are our partners in supplying the waste plastic and the pre-processing stage of our production process.

The alternative building products space is a very new industry and therein exist a myriad of opportunities. At present we have more demand than we can supply and this is the genesis of our biggest challenge, which is low production capacity. To date, we produce about 500-1000 bricks per day, recycling close to 500 kilograms of plastic waste a day.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) says every minute, a million plastic bottles are purchased across the world, the majority of which are not recycled.

Nzambi Matee is one of seven innovators recognized as United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Young Champions of the Earth for 2020.

Source: United Nations