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Ogel taking Lego-inspired recycled plastics solution across borders

UK start-up Ogel has acquired almost £250 000 (EUR 300 000) in funding to develop its innovative building system using recycled plastics.

The investment, which includes around £200 000 in crowdfunding donations from more than 750 people, will help the company to expand its operations nationwide and, potentially, grow markets far and wide. 

Ogel had previously acquired £50 000 from judges on the popular TV show Dragons’ Den. Founder Gary Giles pitched his innovative idea this summer and received favourable feedback from both investors and the audience.

‘It’s been quite a journey,’ he tells Recycling International for its upcoming Plastics Special. ‘At the moment, our production capacity is around 400 kg per day – this represents about two mobile offices made from recycled plastics. We’ve got two machines running now and we aim to double that in the short term to show the world what Ogel is capable of.’

The big idea behind Ogel, which is ‘Lego’ spelled backwards, is structures that are easy to build and dismantle and are made to last. Its modular, interlinked panels made from 100% recycled polystyrene, cannot rust and are thick enough not to degrade or crack.

‘A garden house or office will endure for a hundred years, easily,’ Giles points out. ‘Whether it’s near the sea with exposure to salt and strong winds or in a hot or cold climate, it doesn’t matter. The way I view it, we can tackle multiple problems at the same time: the tight housing market in countries like the UK, plastic waste pollution, and the dire need for houses and emergency shelters in developing countries.’

The modular system, said to be stronger than brick, can also serve as a flood prevention structure. ‘You can simply take the walls, ceiling, roof and flooring apart and reuse the components. You may also expand the existing space to create a full-blown house with two stories,’ Giles explains.

Construction material is mainly sourced from the production waste stream of manufacturers. They includes packaging producers and electronics companies whose devices use a lot of plastic. ‘Big products like fridges are the best,’ Giles says. ‘These are mostly already white. That means all you have to do is shred and compound them.’

Ogel maintains a strict 2% contamination limit. ‘It’s not a problem at all to meet this standard. It doesn’t matter if walls aren’t a perfect match in terms of colour as most people will paint over them or decorate them to put their own spin on the room,’ the entrepreneur adds.

A new project Giles and his team are currently working on involves the Red Cross and the United Nations in Zambia. ‘We’re in talks to help create a special solar-powered mobile phone charging station for urban hotspots. The space will also contain a fridge to provide beverages and medicine.

‘It’s an exciting prospect, taking our patented solution out into the world!’

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