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Building a better world, one brick at a time

Kenya-based materials engineer Nzambi Matee has founded a company that recycles plastic scrap and sand into low-cost construction materials.

Thanks to her business Gjenge Makers, she was one of the winners of the Young Champions of the Earth prize, which is part of the United Nations Environment Programme to engage young people in tackling the world’s most pressing sustainability challenges.

Matee’s story is a testimony to the innovative contributions of women working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics worldwide – especially on International Women’s Day (8 March).

Gjenge Makers creates bricks and tiles in various colours (currently red, blue, brown and green) and manhole covers from plastic scrap. Mattee says her products are ‘incredibly strong’ with the bricks holding up to five times the weight of comparable concrete blocks.

‘So far, we have managed to recycle over 20 tonnes of plastic waste and we’re still going strong,’ the entrepreneur from Nairobi adds. Meanwhile, she has created 112 job opportunities for waste collectors – especially helping women and young people.

The start-up recycling plant produces around 1500 bricks per day. Matee plans to triple output by investing in a new production line.

There is certainly potential for an eco-business like Gjenge Makers considering Nairobi alone generates 500 tonnes of plastic waste per day.

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