UGANDA, Kampala | Real Muloodi News | Did you know plastic waste can be recycled into durable building materials? In Kenya, an intelligent young lady has founded a firm that recycles plastic waste into bricks.
Nzambi Matee, a materials engineer, says she was “tired of being on the sidelines”. In Nairobi’s capital city, government workers battled plastic garbage, so she invented a 5 to 7 times tougher substance than concrete.
Matee, the founder of Gjenge Makers, which converts plastic trash into durable construction materials, also invented the machinery that produces the bricks at her factory.
Gjenge Makers create a range of various paving stones after heating and mixing low and high-density polyethene, and polypropylene wastes got for free from local packing companies.
“There is waste they cannot process anymore; they cannot recycle. That is what we get,” Matee said.
The end product is a series of flexible construction materials pressed into varied thicknesses using a hydraulic machine and sold in various colours for an average of $7.70 per square meter.
So far, she has hired over 110 individuals to help produce around 1,500 bricks every day. She said since the company’s inception in 2018, they had recycled approximately 20 metric tons of plastic trash.
She intends to install a much larger manufacturing line shortly, which will triple her production capacity.
WATCH VIDEO OF THE RECYCLYING HERO IN ACTION
Nelson Boateng a “reformed plastic bag manufacturer” is a Ghanaian founder of the Nelplast Company that turns tons of plastic waste, collected from the city, into colourful building bricks.
In efforts to save the environment from plastic waste, eco-bricks are being used in the construction of homes, churches, schools, to mention but a few.
Before Nelplast, the 36-year-old entrepreneur used to make pellets to make plastic bags by recycling tons of discarded plastic sachets.
In 2015, Ghana was affected by severe flooding. The floods swept through Boateng’s densely populated home area of Ashaiman, as well as other areas in Accra.
According to the investigations, the flooding was caused by the plastic wastes that clogged the drainage system.
“I was unhappy, realising that I had been a contributor to the menace all this while,” said Boateng.
At Just 13 years, Boateng started working as a plastics factory hand where he learned the plastic business.
The flood forced a change of direction. Boateng developed an entirely new business idea. At 28, he started Nelplast Company for recycling plastic. His company now turns tons of plastic waste, eco-bricks.
At the factory, they wash, semi-dry and crush plastic waste with sand to create a paste which is then compressed into bricks.
“The plastics are crushed, washed, semi-dried and mixed with the sand and subsequently passed through an extruder. When the mixture comes out of the extruder, you see it as a paste,” he explained.
“They put this paste on a weighing machine to ensure that all the bricks are of uniform size. The hot paste is put in another machine and given a minimum amount of pressure. After it cools, the product is ejected from the machine and the final product – which is the bricks – are packed,’’ Boateng added.
Nelplast’s clients include organisations such as Christian Action Faith Ministries Chapel International, where they have even used the bricks as pavement blocks.
Besides being cheaper than the traditional bricks, Boateng’s eco-bricks come with several advantages. “They are durable and don’t crack easily. Apart from that, they can withstand any kind of weather. They are resistant to algae and have sound absorption properties as compared with cement blocks,” he said.
It was difficult to get potential customers. The public was later mesmerised, after seeing a complete prototype house Nelplast constructed in thirteen days. About 400 kg of plastic waste was used.
Before the end of 2018, the government awarded Boateng for his innovative work. “This was reassuring because I felt that finally I was being noticed,’’ he said.
Nelplast employs over 200 people, women forming most of his workforce.
Just like Boateng, with the passion to save the environment, Hellena Sailas, a Tanzanian, established Arena Recycling Industry (ARI), to make building materials from plastic waste.
Hellena, a 24-year-old Tanzanian lady, got the idea of recycling plastic waste into bricks while working as a volunteer at Psychosocial Health and Entrepreneurship Development Skills.“I was working in the entrepreneurship department, where we made clothing for brides and grooms. We would also go looking for locations suitable for wedding pictures, including beaches,” she recalls.
However, along the beach, they would find tonnes of plastic waste that ruined the beach scenery. That prompted Hellena to find a solution to this pollution.
Hellena carried out research on waste management and discovered the use of ‘3R’ as a way of managing waste. The ‘3R’ symbol stands for Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
Hellena further learnt that plastic waste can be recycled into several useful products such as oil, petrol, kerosene and even building materials!
In October 2018, Hellena established ARI to deal with plastic waste by recycling them into eco-friendly building materials.
According to Hellena, ARI works directly with plastic waste pickers and they have been able to collect over 500 tonnes of plastic waste. They have produced around 5,000 eco-bricks, and 1,000 square meters of pavements blocks. Eco-bricks are affordable, durable by two times compared to the traditional bricks.
“We mix plastic with sand to strengthen them. Polymers and polymers in the plastics become highly intact when mixed with sand. We already tested the bricks in the laboratory and the results show they are more durable compared to the normal bricks. They are waterproof and anti-fungal, which means they don’t get fungus that makes them sustain for long-lasting a time,” Hellena says.
Each brick has a protrusion at one end and depression at the other end, for a perfect fit, like a jigsaw puzzle.
Each eco-brick has vertical holes – which not only saves the number of materials used in its production but allows metal rods to be inserted or to fill in cement to increase strength during construction.
Recycling is one way of protecting the environment. The firm makes eco-bricks, paving blocks and tiles that are used in the construction of houses, toilets, garden walls and other structures.
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