Turning Plastic Waste Into Bricks Stronger Than Concrete

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 10, 2021

Materials engineer Nzambi Matee has started a company in her native Kenya manufacturing paving bricks made from plastic waste and sand that are cheaper, stronger, and more durable than concrete or similar bricks. For her efforts, Matee was named a Young Champion of the Earth by the United Nations.

Matee, who majored in material science and worked as an engineer in Kenya's oil industry, was inspired to launch her business after routinely coming across plastic bags strewn along Nairobi's streets.

In 2017, Matee quit her job as a data analyst and set up a small lab in her mother's back yard. There, she began creating and testing pavers, which are a combination of plastic and sand. The neighbours complained about the noisy machine she was using, so Matee pleaded for one year's grace to develop the right ratios for her paving bricks.

"I shut down my social life for a year, and put all my savings into this," she said. "My friends were worried."

And just FYI: not to take anything away from Matee, but the general process for making bricks out of plastic waste seems to be one that's used widely around the world (since at least 2016). WasteAid offers step-by-step instructions for communities who want to make their own bricks from plastic waste. (via colossal)