Young materials engineer Nzambi Matee is the founder of Nairobi-based Gjenge Makers and her company transforms recycled plastic waste into durable building materials. The company gets waste for free from packaging factories, although she pays for the plastic received from other recyclers. Her factory produces 1,500 bricks each day, each of which are 5-7 times stronger than concrete, made from a mix of different kinds of plastic. Read more for a video and additional pictures.
Some of the plastic includes high density polyethylene found in milk and shampoo bottles, low density polyethylene used for bags and polypropylene, which are used in manufacturing ropes, flip-top lids as well as buckets. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is off limits, most commonly used for plastic bottles. This waste is then mixed with sand, heated and then compressed into bricks, which are priced according to thickness and color. For example, a standard gray brick costs 850 Kenyan shillings ($7.70) per square meter.
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We must rethink how we manufacture industrial products and deal with them at the end of their useful life. Nzambi Matee’s innovation in the construction sector highlights the economic and environmental opportunities when we move from a linear economy, where products, once used, are discarded, to a circular one, where products and materials continue in the system for as long as possible,” said Soraya Smaoun, who specializes in industrial production techniques with UNEP.