If there’s one thing we know about plastics, it’s that they take a long time to disintegrate. But can you think of something that we hope does NOT disintegrate? Homes, for one. Put those two topics together, and that’s what Nzambi Matee from Kenya has been focusing on since 2017 in her start-up social enterprise, Gjenge Makers. As a materials engineer, Matee was tired of the plastic pollution problem in her country, so she did what she does best—put her skills to good use and solved the problem. First, she collected plastic waste from packaging factories around her (for free!) and then experimented to discover the treatment that would produce bricks for construction. Matee knew that plastic doesn’t disintegrate easily and wondered if there could be a way of treating it that would retain that valuable element in the material!
Today, the plastic waste is mixed with sand, heated, and compressed into bricks that are sold in different colors and thicknesses. Gjenge Makers has recycled about twenty tons of plastic waste to make bricks and the start-up is adding a bigger production line to its factory. The resulting brick is even stronger than concrete! But this building material isn’t made from any type of plastic—it’s mainly high-density polyethylene, the material used for shampoo bottles, plastic containers, and the bags that contain cereals and sandwiches.
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