Kenyan woman finds a way to recycle plastic waste into bricks that are stronger than concrete

Nzambi Matee inspects one of her factory's recycled bricks.
(Image credit: Screenshot/YouTube/UN Environment Program)

Using her ingenuity and engineering skills, Nzambi Matee found a way to help the environment by converting plastic waste into building materials.

In 2017, Matee opened a factory in Nairobi called Gjenge Makers, where workers take plastic waste, mix it with sand, and heat it up, with the resulting brick being five to seven times stronger than concrete. The factory accepts waste that other facilities "cannot process anymore, they cannot recycle," Matee told Reuters. "That is what we get."

The bricks are made of plastic that was originally used for milk and shampoo bottles, cereal and sandwich bags, buckets, and ropes. Every day, Gjenge Makers produces about 1,500 bricks, in different sizes and colors. Matee is a materials engineer, and she designed the factory's machines after becoming sick of waiting for government officials to do something about plastic pollution. "I was tired of being on the sidelines," she told Reuters.

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Since opening, Gjenge Makers has recycled 20 tons of plastic waste, and Matee plans on adding a larger production line that will allow the factory to triple its output. Catherine Garcia

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