Innovative Kenyan Recycles Plastic Waste into Bricks Stronger than Concrete

Nzambi Matee, the founder of Gjenge Makers, recycles waste plastic into construction products. She is a materials engineer who designed her own machines for this endeavor.

By Diana Wachira on
2nd March 2021

She proudly states that her factory has recycled 20 tonnes of waste plastic since its founding in 2017. She plans to add another more significant production line that will triple the current factory’s capacity and hopes to break even by the end of the year after the expansion.

Her innovative journey began when she ran out of patience in waiting for the government to solve plastic pollution. Matee said, "I was tired of being on the sidelines.” She then decided to take matters into her own hands and made it a goal to use her skills to make a difference in the world. As she hurled one of her bricks hard against the ground without cracking, she said, "Our product is almost five to seven times stronger than concrete."

Gjenge Bricks used in pavement
Gjenge Bricks laid in pavement (@gjenge_makers Twitter handle)

The Nairobi-based Gjenge Makers’ founder explained, "There is that waste they cannot process anymore; they cannot recycle. That is what we get." She gets the waste for free from packaging factories, but she pays for the plastic she gets from other recyclers. She then uses her incredible skills to transform this plastic waste into durable building materials.

The Gjenge Makers factory produces 1,500 bricks daily that are all made from a mix of different kinds of recycled plastic waste. The kind of plastic she uses is high-density polyethylene that is used in shampoo and milk bottles. She also used low-density polyethylene, often used for sandwich and cereal bags. Polypropylene used to make buckets, flip-top lids, and ropes is also used in the process. She, however, doesn’t use polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is commonly used to make plastic bottles.

The Gjenge Team
The Gjenge Team (@gjenge_makers Twitter handle)

The process of making these innovative constriction products involves mixing the plastic waste with sand, heating the mixture, and then compressing it into bricks that are then sold. The price of these bricks depends on their thickness and color. However, the standard grey bricks go for Ksh850 (US$7.70) per square meter.

Top Photo: Gjenge Makers founder Nzambi Matee with samples of her recycled brick products (@gjenge_makers Twitter Handle)

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