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Building a better future with recycled plastic -WM

WIPO Magazine

By Paul Omondi, freelance writer

Young Kenyan entrepreneur, Nzambi Matee, is making an impact on Kenya’s built environment through an innovative solution that recycles plastic into construction materials. In a recent interview with the WIPO Magazine, she explains how she was inspired by the late environmental conservationist and Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai to set up Gjenge Makers to manufacture pavers as an alternative, affordable and sustainable building product.

What inspired you to consider recycling as a viable enterprise, and why the construction industry?

The pavers produced by Gjenge are made of polymer
concrete, which is basically sand and plastic. The sand
is the aggregate and the plastic is the binder. The pavers
are seven times stronger than concrete.
(Photo: © Gjenge Makers)

Recycling has become a big and necessary industry in today’s world. We have to consider what to do with all the products and materials we produce at the end of their lifecycle. There’s only so much we can dump in landfills. Nature is also forcing us to be more efficient in our processes. Recycling is key if we are going to succeed in making the circular economy a reality. I wanted to disprove the notion that recycling is an expensive, niche market. I decided to focus on the construction industry because it is vital in providing shelter, which is one of the most important human needs.

I also have a passion for environmental conservation, which has been inspired by the late Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. She achieved a lot through her activism. I decided to play my part in conserving the environment with science and engineering. Those are the tools of my trade.

What does the name “Gjenge” mean?

Gjenge is an adaptation of the Kiswahili word jijenge, which means “build yourself.” It's a perfect fit for our business because we are in the construction industry, so the idea of “building” is appropriate. Our vision is to see people build a sustainable future; no one wants to live in a polluted and degraded environment. That’s where our recycled pavers come in.

You call yourselves change makers. What is the change you want to see?

In Nairobi, Kenya, where we are based, you hardly see any scrap metal waste because the recycling system for scrap metal is well defined. My vision is to manage recycling of other materials, especially plastics, in a similar manner. That’s the change we want to make, both in terms of environmental impact and social impact. So far, we have recycled more than 20 tons of plastic and created more than 100 jobs for garbage collectors, women and youth groups.

Did you ever imagine running this kind of business?

My background is in physics. I studied geophysics and natural science, but now I’m leaning more towards natural science. I’m self-taught in mechanical and hydraulic engineering, which is why I ended up running a building materials construction company. I have always wanted to provide building solutions and play a role in the conservation of the environment. Gjenge makes both of these ambitions possible.


Full article

Tarikh Input: 08/01/2024 | Kemaskini: 08/01/2024 | asrizam


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