How Nzambi Matee transforms plastic into bricks
When Nzambi Matee realized that plastic menace in Nairobi was causing more harm that good to the environment, she set on a journey to turn the trash into cash by making building materials out of plastic.
Matee, who specialized in material science and worked as an engineer in Kenya’s oil industry, was inspired to launch her business after routinely coming across plastic bags thrown along Nairobi’s streets.
The 29 year old engineer graduate saw an opportunity in the most unlikely place, plastic. She decided to quit her job in 2017 and started making pavers from plastics.
Matee started her company Gjenga makers Limited a company that makes lightweight and low-cost building material that is made of recycled plastic with sand to make bricks that are stronger than ordinary concrete bricks.
Matee says most of the plastic is readily available and they get them for free. She also gets the plastic supplied to her straight from the factories
“Here Nairobi we generate about 500 metric tons of plastic waste every single day and only a fraction of that is recycled.”
“We decided what more can we do instead of just sitting in the sidelines and complaining. Essentially, companies have to pay to dispose the waste, so we solved their problem.”
Her startup company currently produces about 1000-1500 blocks per day, “recycling over 500 kilograms of plastic waste a day.”
“Plastic is fibrous in nature, so therefore, the brick ends up having a stronger compression strength,” Matee added. “We right now have a capacity of producing 1000 to 15000 bricks a day.”
The company’s pavers are fully certified by the Kenyan Bureau of Standards (KEBS). They provide building solution of various types.
Using three machines, the making process involves mixing plastic with sand using the extruder machine and heating it at very high temperatures. The mixture is then compressed and allowed to cool.
“Plastic is fibrous in nature and therefore the bricks ends up having stronger compression strength than the ordinary sand bricks” She stated.
Matee says her blocks are light and easily to work with making them favorable for construction in various projects.
“Her project was given a boost when Matee won a scholarship to attend a social entrepreneurship training programme in the United States of America. With her paver samples packed in her luggage, she used the material labs in the University of Colorado Boulder to further test and refine the ratios of sand to plastic”, UNEPs website explained
Her journey has earned her awards and recognition throughout the world. Just recently Matee won the Young Champion of the Earth Award that she says that was a big motivation to her.
He journey that started with just making paving blocks has seen her transition into making of building blocks and her market has grown rapidly.
Her passion to clean the environment and reduce plastic waste in the environment has seen Nzambi build a business that is providing real building solution not only in Kenya but outside too.
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