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WATCH: Nzambi Matee, the Kenyan woman recycling plastic waste into durable bricks

Nzambi Matee, a 29-year-old entrepreneur from Nairobi, is combating the global waste crisis by recycling bags, containers, and other waste products into bricks. Picture: Facebook

Nzambi Matee, a 29-year-old entrepreneur from Nairobi, is combating the global waste crisis by recycling bags, containers, and other waste products into bricks. Picture: Facebook

Published Apr 9, 2022

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Cape Town – Nzambi Matee has created a lightweight and low-cost building material that is made of recycled plastic with sand to make bricks that are stronger than concrete material.

Matee's company, Gjenge Makers, produces sustainable low-cost construction materials made of recycled plastic waste and sand.

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She has partnered with different manufacturers of plastics bottle tops and seals in the beverage and pharmaceutical industries in Kenya to collect offcuts and scraps.

She has partnered with different manufacturers of plastics bottle tops and seals in the beverage and pharmaceutical industries in Kenya to collect offcuts and scraps.

This material is amalgamated with discarded single use plastics delivered by informal waste collectors, to build paving bricks, while providing the collectors with a stable income.

Many don’t know this, but prior to launching her company, Matee worked as a data analyst and oil-industry engineer.

According to This Is Colossal.com, after encountering plastic waste along Nairobi’s streets, she decided to quit her job and created a small lab in her mother’s backyard, testing sand and plastic combinations. Matee eventually received a scholarship to study in the materials lab at the University of Colorado Boulder, where she ultimately developed a prototype for the machine that now produces the textured bricks.

In 2020, Matee was named a Young Champion of the Earth 2020 Africa winner at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The award "provides seed funding and mentorship to promising environmentalists as they tackle the world's most pressing challenges", according to World Architecture.org.

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"Plastic waste is not just a Kenya problem, but it's a worldwide problem," said Nzambi Matee.

"Here Nairobi we generate about 500 metric tones of plastic waste every single day and only a fraction of that is recycled."

"We decided what more can we do instead of just sitting in the sidelines and complaining. Essentially, companies have to pay to dispose the waste, so we solved their problem."

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"That waste essentially comes for free."

Right now, the company generates between 1,000 and 1,500 bricks per day, and Matee hopes to expand across Africa.

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