Tired of sitting around and waiting for the government to solve all the problems related to plastic pollution, one Kenyan woman decided to take action.
“I really jumped in, off a cliff without even a parachute. I was building it as I was falling down,” Nzambi Matee said. She was referring to starting her company, Gjenge Makers.
At first, her team would sort and sell plastic waste to other recycling companies. Once they started collecting more than the companies could take, however, they began to think outside the box.
Mixing plastic that either can’t be recycled anymore or never could be with sand, they discovered a way to create plastic bricks. They’re seven times as strong as concrete but weigh half as much. Even better, they’re more affordable than traditional bricks, costing only about a tenth as much.
“Here in Nairobi, we generate about 500 metric tons of plastic waste every single day and only a fraction of that is recycled,” Nzambi said. “Essentially, companies have to pay to dispose the waste so we solved their problem.”
These innovative bricks are being used to make driveways, sidewalks, patios, and roads, but Nzambi’s goal is to one day create some that can be used in building construction. In the meantime, her trailblazing company is already making a huge difference.
“We right now have a capacity of producing 1,000 to 1,500 bricks a day,” Nzambi said. “So far we have recycled 20 metric tons, and we are looking to push that value to 50 by the end of the next financial year.”
Part of Gjenge Makers’ mission is to reduce waste pollution first in Kenya and then in Africa as a whole, but their long-term goals are even more ambitious. According to Nzambi, they want to “impact and motivate other people and other youths to do similar things in different places.”
Achieving Nzambi’s goals won’t be easy. In fact, just starting a company with such lofty dreams was terrifying, but rather than waiting until she felt completely ready — something that may have never happened — she simply got started.
“Isn’t that how great things are done?” she said.
What a creative way to make a difference! Keep up the great work, Nzambi!
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