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Columbian recycler transforms lives in Ivory Coast

Photo by Frank Dejongh of Unicef

Columbian enterprise Conceptos Plasticos has joined forces with Unicef to build a factory that can create bricks made from plastic waste. The recycled bricks will allow the charity to construct new schools in the Ivory Coast region.

More than 280 tonnes of plastic waste are produced every day in Abidjan, the biggest city in Ivory Coast. Only about 5% of this waste is recycled, with the majority being landfilled. The plastic brick factory could change all this, says Unicef representative Dr. Aboubacar Kampo.

He describes the recycled bricks as  ‘easy to assemble, durable and low-cost’. Other benefits include being fire resistant, waterproof, 40% cheaper and 20% lighter than traditional bricks.

The one-of-a-kind factory will be able to process 9600 tonnes of plastic waste per year once it reaches full capacity. The recycling centre will also provide a source of income to women living in poverty in a ‘formalised recycling market’. 

Ahead of the construction of the plant, a total of nine classrooms have been built in Gonzagueville, Divo and Toumodi using plastic bricks made in Colombia. Dr Kampo says this ‘demonstrates the viability’ of the construction methods and materials.

He acknowledges the project is very ambitious: Ivory Coast needs 15 000 classrooms to meet the needs of children without a place to learn. ‘In certain areas, for the first-time, kindergartners from poor neighborhoods would be able to attend classrooms with less than 100 other students,’ Dr. Kampo urges.

He points out that improper waste management is responsible for 60% of life-threatening diseases Ivory Coast children suffer from.

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