In accordance with Matee, simply in Nairobi alone—which is Kenya’s largest metropolis with rather less than 5 million residents—there are 500 metric tons of plastic waste generated each day. Matee’s enterprise is small. Utilizing three machines, her group sifts, mixes, and compresses the sand of plastic waste into pavers at very excessive warmth. As Matee explains, large companies have to pay to have their plastic waste recycled and Gjenge Makers takes that downside out of their arms—one thing these firms are very comfortable to surrender. Gjenge Makers has recycled about 20 metric tons of plastic into reuse since 2017, with a objective of recycling upwards of fifty metric tons this coming 12 months. It is a small fraction of what might be carried out, however it’s a new firm with a stable concept.
In accordance with UNEP, Matee majored in materials science and labored within the Kenyan oil trade as an engineer for a few years. The inspiration for her enterprise got here from seeing plastic baggage mendacity about Nairobi streets in her each day life. It took her a 12 months of sinking her financial savings into analysis and improvement of how she may produce the constructing supplies she desired earlier than she made headway. Utilizing early samples of her pavers, Matee was in a position to win a scholarship in the US for brand spanking new entrepreneurs, permitting her to use “materials labs within the College of Colorado Boulder to additional take a look at and refine the ratios of sand to plastic.” This expertise allowed her to not solely refine the product itself however work out methods she may produce a better amount of pavers. After three years and burning by means of her whole financial savings, she was in a position to produce her first batch.
To date Matee’s enterprise gives pavers for footpaths, streets, and colleges, however she hopes that with time her firm can produce much more, inexpensive constructing merchandise. In accordance with Reuters, the plastics Matee can use in her bricks embody “excessive density polyethylene, utilized in milk and shampoo bottles; low density polyethylene, usually used for luggage for cereals or sandwiches; and polypropylene, used for ropes, flip-top lids and buckets.” She doesn’t work with polyethylene terephthalate, the plastic incessantly present in bottled water.
Matee’s profile on United Nations Surroundings Program says that Matee additionally pays people locally for gathering and offering plastics for Gjenge Makers to make use of. “Now we have financially empowered over 112 people nearly all of whom are girls and youth teams who’re our companions in supplying the waste plastic and the pre-processing stage of our manufacturing course of.”
The UNEP award will give her firm an infusion of cash in addition to a mentorship program, publicity, and connections with a bigger worldwide neighborhood of potential buyers and companions.