Building a Better Brick

John Hill
9. February 2021
Nzambi Matee demonstrating the strength of one of the pavers made with recycled plastic. (Photo: Screenshot)

In December the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) named seven regional winners of the 2020 Young Champions of the Earth prize. Engineer Nzambi Matee, of Nairobi's Gjenge Makers, won for Africa, for a machine that turns discarded plastic into paving stones.

As Matee explains in the short film made for the prize, plastic waste is a global problem, but one that is pronounced in Kenya: 500 metric tons of plastic waste is created every day in Nairobi alone. Very little of that waste is recycled, since companies have to pay to dispose of it. Enter Matee's company, Gjenge Makers, which takes the discarded plastic and uses it as an ingredient in the production of brick pavers. The fibrous plastic gives the pavers more compressive strength than concrete equivalents, as Matee demonstrates in the video, as shown above.

The Young Champions of the Earth Prize from UNEP comes with $10,000 in seed funding. With pavers already being produced, Matee hopes to develop the technology to make building bricks from plastic waste as well.

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