A 29-year old Kenyan woman, Nzambi Matee recycles plastic into beautiful bricks
Nzambi Matee majored in Material Engineering and worked as an Engineer in Kenya’s oil industry. In 2017 she quit her job to start creating pavers, which are a combination of plastic and sand. Through experimentation, she understood which plastics bind better together and then created the machinery that would help her mass produce.
She started up Gjenge Markers in Nairobi. She is able to produce 1,500 bricks everyday using a mix of different plastics. She gets packaging for free from factories but pays for plastics from recyclers. The startup has generated 112 job opportunities for garbage collectors both women and youth groups.
These bricks are created lightweight and low cost. They have been thrown against walls and they did not crack; she said “our product is almost 5-7 times stronger than concrete. There is that waste they cannot process anymore, they cannot recycle, that is what we get”.
For production she heats sand, plastic and compresses them into different bricks which are sold for construction purposes. She has recycled 20 tonnes since she founded the company. She plans to add a larger production line.
She set up this company to help solve the problem of plastic pollution. She also said “it is absurd that we still have this problem of providing decent shelter. Plastic is a material that is misused and misunderstood. The potential is enormous but its afterlife can be disastrous”.
This will greatly help the economy as highlighted by Soraya Smaoun who specializes in industrial production techniques with UNEP when she said “we must rethink how we manufacture industrial products and deal with them at the end of their useful life. 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”.