How bricks made from sand, plastic waste are helping to fight pollution

A brick made of recycled plastic. [File, Standard]

Plastic pollution is a worldwide problem. In Nairobi alone, about 500 metric tons of plastic waste are generated every single day. Only a fraction of this number is recycled.

In true innovation fashion, finding a solution to this problem turned into an opportunity for Nzambi Matee, a material scientist who quit her job to pursue this new-found passion.

After collecting recyclable plastics from households and institutions, she mixes the plastic waste with sand at very high temperatures using an extruder. The machine she invented then compresses it into the pavement bricks

“Plastic is fibrous in nature so the brick ends up having a stronger compression strength,” Matee, who says her innovation produces bricks stronger than concrete told World Architecture.

Her Nairobi-based factory can produce 1,500 bricks and recycle 500 kilogrammes of waste plastic a day.

However, her hard work and dedication paid off. Her company is now making a positive impact on both the city’s environment and society.

Matee’s innovation has been decorated with awards. It was recognised by the United Nations Young Champions of the Earth programme.

The programme selected her as a regional winner in 2020. Her company has already recycled 20 metric tons and is aiming to reach 50 metric tons by the end of the next financial year.

This innovation creates strong and durable construction products that are made from cement and polymer concrete while also tackling plastic waste pollution in Kenya. Her innovation has not only reduced plastic waste pollution but also provided employment opportunities to young people and women.

Poor waste management coupled with rising urban pressure has heightened the risks of environmental degradation in Nairobi. With a fast-growing population of 4.4 million people, innovations like Matee’s can help generate jobs while fighting the menace of plastic pollution within the city.