Kenyan Scientist Builds With Bottles to Beat Plastic Pollution

Photo: Pixabay

By Nita Bhalla

Gilgil, Kenya — ‘Eco Blocks and Tiles’ is the first company in Kenya to manufacture roof tiles and other construction materials from plastic and glass waste Hope Mwanake understands the plastic pollution crisis facing Kenya better than most.

An environmental scientist who ran a waste collection service in Kenya’s central town of Gilgil, she witnessed first hand the mountains of plastic buckets, bottles and jerry cans discarded by residents, hotels, shops and schools.

“We were just dumping all the plastic in the landfill. It didn’t make sense. We knew there had to be a better way,” said Mwanake, 30, at her factory on the outskirts of Gilgil, 120 km (75 miles) north of the capital Nairobi.

“We wanted to do something with all this plastic waste and after a lot of brainstorming, research and experimenting, we came up with a value-added product with market demand that would also help to reduce all this plastic in the environment.”

Along with business partner and fellow environmental scientist Kevin Mureithi, she founded “Eco Blocks and Tiles” in 2016. It is the first company in Kenya to manufacture roof tiles and other construction materials from plastic and glass waste.

The tiles are more durable, lighter and easier to transport and install than concrete or clay tiles. They are also safer for rainwater collection but are available at a similar cost.

Through word of mouth, promotions in hardware stores and social media posts, the start-up has attracted dozens of homeowners and small businesses this past year.

The company has also gained support from the Kenyan government, which is promoting the use of sustainable greener materials as part of efforts to reduce carbon emissions generated from the east African nation’s construction industry.
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