Plastic Bricks Stronger Than Concrete

A brilliant young Kenyan woman manufactures bricks from recycled plastic.

Nzambi Matee says she was “tired of being on the sidelines” while her government struggled to find a solution to the plastic waste in Nairobi, so she formulated her own plan and founded Gjenge Makers, which transforms plastic waste into durable building materials.

Matee, a materials engineer, even designed the machines that manufacture the bricks in her factory. The result? A product that is 5 to 7 times stronger than concrete.

Matee gets the waste from packaging factories for free, although she pays for the plastic she gets from other recyclers. Her factory produces 1,500 bricks each day, made from a mix of different kinds of plastic. These are high density polyethylene, used in milk and shampoo bottles; low density polyethylene, often used for bags for cereals or sandwiches; and polypropylene, used for ropes, flip-top lids and buckets.

Gjenge Makers produces a variety of products after the plastic polymer is heated and mixed with sand.

“There is waste they cannot process anymore; they cannot recycle. That is what we get,” Matee told Reuters. The result is a line of versatile building materials pressed via hydraulic machinery into different thicknesses, that sell in a variety of colours that cost from $7.70 per square metre.

So far, she has employed more than 110 people, and have recycled about 20 tonnes of plastic waste since the company was founded in 2017.

She hopes to very soon add a much bigger manufacturing line that will triple her production capacity.



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