Kenyan woman’s startup recycles plastic into bricks that are stronger than concrete

Nzambi Matee — a nairobi-based 29-year-old entrepreneur and inventor — is the founder of a startup that recycles plastic waste into bricks that are stronger than concrete. called gjenge makers ltd, her company initiated following the development of a prototype machine that turns discarded plastic into paving stones. one day at the factory means 1,500 churned plastic pavers, prized not just for the quality, but for how affordable they are.

‘It is absurd that we still have this problem of providing decent shelter – a basic human need,’ said matee. ‘plastic is a material that is misused and misunderstood. the potential is enormous, but its after life can be disastrous.’

Before creating gjenge makers ltd, nzambi matee majored in material science and worked as an engineer in kenya’s oil industry. in 2017 she quit her job to start creating and testing pavers, which are a combination of plastic and sand. she gets the waste material for free from packaging factories and also buys it from other recyclers. through experimentation, she understood which plastics bind better together and then created the machinery that would allow her to mass produce them.

‘We must rethink how we manufacture industrial products and deal with them at the end of their useful life,’ said soraya smaoun, who specializes in industrial production techniques with UNEP. ‘nzambi matee’s innovation in the construction sector highlights the economic and environmental opportunities when we move from a linear economy, where products, once used, are discarded, to a circular one, where products and materials continue in the system for as long as possible.’

Thus far, gjenge makers ltd. has managed to recycle more than 20 tonnes of plastic waste into paving bricks that come in an array of colors including but not limited to red, blue, brown, and green. not only are they incredibly strong — tested to hold twice the weight threshold of concrete blocks — but the startup has also generated 112 job opportunities for garbage collectors, women and youth groups.