Recycling plastic waste to make bricks that are stronger than concrete
From a video on The Kids Should See This
Nairobi, Kenya-based, materials engineer Nzambi Matee is transforming plastic waste into bricks that are lighter and five to seven times stronger than concrete. Her motivation was wanting to do something about the piles of plastic waste she was seeing every day.
Her social enterprise, Gjenje Makers, makes up to 1,500 paving bricks each day - alternative building products that reuse discarded “high density polyethylene, used in milk and shampoo bottles; low density polyethylene, often used for bags for cereals or sandwiches; and polypropylene, used for ropes, flip-top lids and buckets.”. An extruder does the mixing of plastic waste with sand at very high temperatures, and then the press compresses it. Plastic is fibrous in nature and so therefore the brick ends up having a stronger compression strength.
Her sustainable low-cost bricks also reduce the need for environmentally-unfriendly concrete and they solve a problem for companies who have to pay to dispose the waste; the waste essentially comes for free.
So far they have recycled 20 metric tons and we are looking to push that value to 50 by the end of next financial year. In addition, they have also created 112 job opportunities “for garbage collectors, women, and youth groups”.
The 29-year-old inventor and entrepreneur was named a 2020 Young Champion of the Earth, the United Nations Environment Programme’s annual innovation award.
The award provides seed funding and mentorship to promising environmentalists as they tackle the world’s most pressing challenges.
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.
Watch a 3 minute video here:
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