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Recycling plastic waste to make bricks that are stronger than concrete

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Materials engineer and Gjenge Makers founder Nzambi Matee is transforming plastic waste into bricks that are lighter and five to seven times stronger than concrete.

As I like saying you have to be true to ‘your why’. ‘Why are you doing this? What is the motivation behind it?’ For me, I was just tired of being in the sidelines of seeing plastic [waste].

Nzambi Matee
Via Reuters, her Nairobi, Kenya-based company 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 cerals or sandwiches; and polypropylene, used for ropes, flip-top lids and buckets.”

plastic bits that will be recycled
Her sustainable low-cost bricks also reduce the need for environmentally-unfriendly concrete. Matee explains in the UN Environment Programme video above:

Essentially companies have to pay to dispose the waste, so we solve their problem; the waste essentially comes for free…

The 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…

So far we have recycled 20 metric tons and we are looking to push that value to 50 by the end of next financial year.

Matee has also created 112 job opportunities “for garbage collectors, women, and youth groups”.

plastic bricks
laying paving stones in place
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.

“We must rethink how we manufacture industrial products and deal with them at the end of their useful life,” said Soraya Smaoun, who specializes in industrial production techniques with UNEP. “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.”

Nzambi Matee
Follow Gjenge Makers on Instagram.

Watch these videos about plastic, recycling, and solutions:
MarinaTex, a bioplastic made from fish waste
• Colorful animal sculptures made from recycled flip-flops
• Fungus: The Plastic of the Future
• Milly Zantow: Recycling Revolutionary
• What is the Circular Economy?

via Colossal.

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