Kenyan Women Invents Recycled Bricks That Are Stronger Than Concrete

Nzambi Matee has incented something that could potentially save the world in more ways than one. Matee was “tired of being on the sidelines” while her capital city of Nairobi struggled to combat climate change. Matee, a materials engineer, knew that she would be able to help. She crafted an object that is 5 to 7 times stronger than concrete. She used the object to found Gjenge Makers, a corporation that makes plastic waste into durable building materials.

"There is waste they cannot process anymore; they cannot recycle," said Matee in an interview with Reuters. "That is what we get."

It starts with shipments of plastic, both low and high-density polyethylene, and polypropylene, from local packaging plants at no cost to her business. Gjenge Makers then uses Matee's machines to create paved stones following the plastic polymer's heating and mixing with sand. The end result is a brick that cannot be broken as easily as crushing a can or even smashing a rock. 

Selling at a variety of thicknesses and colors, each brick comes out to cost an average of $7.70 per square meter. Each of the versatile building products is created when it is pressed by a hydraulic machine. She has 110 people on her staff who help churn out about 1,500 bricks daily. Together, Matee and her team have recycled about 20 metric tons of plastic waste in the last three years. She hopes to continue their mission and save the planet, one plastic brick at a time. 

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