Plastic: “I believe plastic is one of the most misunderstood things,” said a 30-year-old Kenyan engineer.
Mzambi Matee said; “Plastic still has its value,” from the mountains of discarded oil drums, laundry buckets. Yoghurt tubs and other debris that was crushed into colorful particles at his Nairobi factory.
“I believe plastic is one of the most misunderstood things.”
A 30-year-old Kenyan engineer and founder will know. His start regenerates tons of discarded plastic into environmentally friendly. Bricks that are stronger, cheaper, and lighter than concrete.
With the construction of his design, these sturdy blocks are already line of roads. Driveways and sidewalks in Nairobi, but may soon serve as another low-cost building material.
Every day his company, Gjeng Makers, issues 1,500 bricks made of industrial and household plastic. That can be disposed of in the city’s overflowing garbage dumps.
A young businessman stopped working on oil and gas. The very industry that makes plastics for mineral oil. To check for recycling after being shocked by how little waste was reused.
500 tons of plastic waste daily
“In Nairobi, we produce about 500 tons of plastic waste daily. And only a small portion of that is recycled,” said Matee, an industry associate with denim overalls and trainers.
“And that made me think – what happened to this?”
Sturdy, lightweight, cheap
Most pollute in landfills, rivers and seas and less than 10 percent are recycled.
In Nairobi, one of Africa’s fastest-growing capitals. Matee discovered a number of immature items to work with. Exploring tips and industrial sites in the city to find unwanted plastic.
It took several years to make the prototype complete. The required machine was customized and taken from backup parts of the industry. But by 2019 production was slow.
Crushed is mixed with sand and placed in high heat, producing mud that is molded into blocks of different sizes.
The result is a stronger paver between two or seven times the concrete. Half the weight, and 15 percent cheaper, Matee said.
It lasts a long time too.
Plastic is naturally fibrous, and the unique manufacturing process prevents air pockets from forming inside bricks. This results in greater pressure forces than conventional freezing stones that fall under high pressure or prolonged weather exposure.
“As a result, it doesn’t break,” Matee said, slamming the two plastic bricks together.
By 2021, they recycle 50 tons of it but Matee hopes to double that amount this year as production increases.
There are limitations.
Of the seven major types of plastic, only four can be recycled into bricks.
PET – a type used in plastic bottles and a major environmental hazard. Is not yet compatible, but they hope to change that.
“There is a lot to do, a lot to do. We are just one drop in the ocean … small, small drops will have a huge impact,” Matee said.
They are trying to enter the affordable housing market by designing. A block that can replace or fill bricks, mortar, and other common building materials.
The prototype is in the works, with plans to build a model home by the end of the year.
“We want to be leaders in different construction products. Our first target is it,” Matee said.
His follow-up work attracted praise and further development earlier this year. After designing a custom gavel at a major UN environmental conference. Where the plastic waste issue was high on the agenda.
Gjeng Makers also created more than 100 direct and indirect jobs through recycling of plastic. Helping both livelihoods and the environment as Matee said it would be impossible to work with mineral fuels.
“Let me sleep better,” he said with a smile.