Nzambi Matee started Gjenga Makers as a plastic collection company but it soon became an effort to transform plastic into something useful.
In Kenya's capital, Nairobi lives the ingenious founder of Gjenge Makers, Nzambi Matee. Her environment-conscious startup focuses on transforming plastic waste into bricks which are five to seven times stronger than concrete. Not only did Matee establish this company, but she is also the brains behind the design of this innovative machine that manufactures bricks from plastic waste, without which it would have polluted our environment even more.
According to Good News Network, she sources plastic low and high-density polyethylene and polypropylene from local packaging plants for free and then uses them to produce this durable building material. It's important to note that the materials used by her are basically waste that cannot be processed anymore or recycled. Thus, Matee takes it upon herself to prevent tonnes of plastic waste from ending up in her country's landfills. Now she hopes to expand her brilliant business so she can add a bigger manufacturing line.
So, what inspired the entrepreneur to launch this effort? During an interview, Matee said that she was "tired of being on the sideline" while civil servants struggled to do something about the mounting piles of plastic waste in Kenya. So, she decided to help tackle this problem by creating Gjenga Makers. The company takes up a variety of work which includes commercial, industrial, and residential projects. It reportedly produces a variety of different stones for pavements and to do so the plastic polymer is heated and mixed with sand.
The polymer comes from a range of items like shampoo, milk bottles, and bags that contained sandwiches or cereals, and buckets, as well as flip-top lids. Thus the polymer is essentially waste that can no longer be processed. "There is waste they cannot process anymore; they cannot recycle. That is what we get," she explained. After transforming the waste, the substance is pressed using a hydraulic machine into the desired thicknesses. This material, which comes in a variety of colors, is sold for an average of $7.70 per square meter.
Currently, Gjenge Makers employs over 110 people and the employees are able to produce 1,500 bricks every day. Ever since the company was founded in 2018, it has recycled about 20 metric tons of plastic waste. In the near future, Matee has plans of expanding her business including a much bigger manufacturing line so that her factory's production capacity is tripled.
Matee initially started Gjenge Makers as a plastics collection company that sorts and sells plastic waste to other recycling companies. But the founder soon realized that her company had collected more waste at a faster rate than what the recycling companies required to uptake new batches. Thus, Matee decided to shift her vision and come up with her own way to recycle the waste plastic.
"Having collected more waste faster than the recycling companies could uptake, this original idea was pivoted, and a decision was made to do value addition to these plastics hence the decision to manufacture alternative building products emerged. Thus, Gjenge Makers was born," reads the website. Gjenge Makers now has four objectives: "to solve the waste pollution problem by recycling and upcycling plastic, while providing alternative construction products that are beautiful, strong, and durable; to provide job opportunities for many skilled and unskilled youths in Kenya and Africa at large; to promote recycling and upcycling culture in Kenya and Africa; to promote and support the next generation of women entrepreneurs within the engineering space."