It's no secret that pollution has became a huge problem around the world, especially single used plastics that clog landfills, oceans and streets. This is a problem across the world which was also recognised by young Kenyan materials engineer Nzambi Matee, who grew increasingly frustrated by the large amount of waste in her hometown of Nairobi.
After seeing the drastic pollution in her own hometown, she decided to invent her own solution to reduce plastic waste.
Matee was so frustrated with the slow municipal response to the problem of plastic waste, and added that “I was tired of being on the sidelines.” Having a background in material sciences, the young entrepreneur took it on herself to design a system which converts high density polyethylene, low density polyethylene, and polypropylene plastics into solid bricks. Matee then founded her own recycling business Gjenge Makers, which transforms plastics into sustainable and extremely durable construction materials using machines which she also designed herself.
The company acquires plastics in need of upcycling from factories and recyclers. Matee explans, “There is that waste they cannot process anymore; they cannot recycle. That is what we get.” During the process the plastics are shredded and combined with sand. The new material is then formed into colorful bricks of varying size and thickness by placing the mixture under high heat and compression.
Their colorful bricks testes five to seven times stronger than concrete and swiftly gaining global attention, including from the United Nations.
Since Matee started the production in 2017, the factory has processed 20 tons of plastic waste and production levels stand at 1,500 bricks per day. They are ideal for building walls, paving driveways, and other construction needs and are very affordable. However Matee’s business, Gjenge Makers is not only focus on sustainability of the environment but also “creating job opportunities for youths and women” within the sustainability and construction industries in Kenya.
Matee was recently recognised as one of seven 2020 winners of the Young Champions of the Earth sustainability honor from the United Nations. Winners of the award receive some seed funding, and the chance to get their ideas before the most powerful global decision makers.