Startup turns waste into cheap building materials

Business

Startup turns waste into cheap building materials


Dr Aghan Oscar. PHOTO FILE | NMG

Summary

  • Plastic waste is a major threat in many suburbs and is the biggest challenge in solid waste management.
  • This got Dr Aghan Oscar thinking about how this could not only be resolved, but also turned into an opportunity.
  • He started researching in 2000 how he could recycle the more than 2,000 tonnes of waste generated daily in Nairobi alone.

Plastic waste is a major threat in many suburbs and is the biggest challenge in solid waste management.

This got Dr Aghan Oscar thinking about how this could not only be resolved, but also turned into an opportunity.

He started researching in 2000 how he could recycle the more than 2,000 tonnes of waste generated daily in Nairobi alone. From his findings, he realized that waste can be turned into affordable building materials.

To embark on this innovative entrepreneurial adventure, he created Kariobangi South: Vanguard Contractors, six years after leading the research. It took so long to start the business as it needed a capital of 12 million shillings.

His dream is now taking shape. The startup now grinds up to a hundred tonnes of plastic waste in a month. The waste is turned into cheaper and more durable products such as driveway blocks, solar tiles, walkway slabs and fence posts that are durable and not subject to vandalism.

DR. Aghan says his passion for recycling waste is driven by the critical need for a clean environment.

“In a report for International Environment Day, the UN warned that at current levels the earth could be inundated with 12 billion tonnes of plastic waste by mid-century. Such a disturbing revelation and the fact that plastic waste was not handled properly forced me to strive to make the world a better place environmentally, ”said Dr Aghan, who holds a Bachelor of Science in public health and a master’s degree in project management. .

“In doing so, I have sought to reduce and convert waste into more reliable and environmentally friendly construction tools while creating jobs.”

Being a former project coordinator with the National Housing Corporation, Dr Aghan best understands the issues of informal settlements where over 60 percent of the urban population lives.

“Families live in crowded homes and our products offer solutions through the provision of alternative and more affordable building materials as we seek to resolve the high cost of construction in the country,” he says.

“Waste has the potential to create homes for millions of homeless people while reducing pollution. We envision a situation where we can house Africans comfortably using their waste. Kenyans are looking for quality, affordable housing, not quality imported and expensive housing, ”says Dr Aghan.

“For us, waste is an opportunity and we manufacture products that are not affected by corrosion and have no effect on the environment. When it is extremely hot, they absorb heat. The products do not break or burn either because they are flame retardant and even if you pour premium gasoline they do not ignite, ”he says.

Although not an engineer by profession, Dr Aghan Oscar personally designed and manufactured all the machines used by the factory.

He hired more than 600 young people, who are former street children, to pick up discarded plastics and rubber in landfills, properties, malls and businesses.

It also contracts with community organizations that provide it with semi-processed waste such as plastics that are crushed, cleaned and dried.

The company pays up to 10,000 shillings per ton of plastic brought in for recycling. The plastics collected are then sorted by quality.

The plastics are then crushed and molded into different shapes which are used in the construction industry to build low cost, safe and sturdy homes. The company operates 24 hours a day, allowing it to recycle 100 tonnes of plastics each month. The process of making a pole takes 20 minutes, which translates to a minimum of 100 poles per day.

“The poles we manufacture vary in density and size depending on requirements. The advantages of using these poles are that termites do not eat them. They also don’t rot and cannot be vandalized for firewood, which is common with wood products. Our products don’t ignite easily either, ”he says.

Although today a success, the company has to face challenges like machine breakage, especially during the rainy season, because the machine and the water do not work well. Dr Aghan recommends setting up recycling centers in various parts of the country.

“For every ten plastic poles produced, one tree is saved, and one kilogram of plastic waste can save 2.5 kg of carbon emissions,” he explains.

“Turning a social challenge into an opportunity can only happen with an integrated society where government, private sector, non-governmental organizations and financial institutions come together to pursue a common goal. “

Its aim is to reduce the cost of building houses, reduce deforestation and increase the empowerment of young people and women.

“The plastic itself is not a problem, it’s the way Kenyans dispose of it that is the problem. There should be more focus on how plastic is disposed of rather than on banning the end product, ”he says.

Its poles were used by the Kenya National Highways Authority (KenHa) to erect road signs along major highways.

“As the world continues to deal with ever increasing amounts of waste, our recycling model could prove to be one of Africa’s best bets in environmental conservation,” said Dr Aghan .