The future appears promising thanks to Ecobrick Solutions founder Michelle Muturi, an entrepreneur and Pitzer College student who hopes her hands-on upcycling initiative will inspire younger generations to support future conservation efforts.
The Kenyan biochemistry major told VOA News that she was motivated to turn plastic waste into brightly colored benches for Olekasasi Primary School in Ongata Rongai because she wanted to make a positive impact on someone, noting how the material would otherwise “just stay” in the environment for years and years.
The students assist with plastic cleanup efforts, gathering discarded single-use bottles that are filled with plastic debris and sand, which are then crushed into bricks for the beautiful benches.
“I am confident that this project has the potential to create a positive ripple effect, not only in the lives of the children but also for their families, communities, and beyond,” Muturi said in a release by Pitzer College celebrating her 2023 Napier Award.
“By empowering these children to take an active role in managing their waste and reducing plastic pollution, we can inspire a culture of environmental stewardship that will have a lasting impact on the planet,” Muturi added.
According to the UN Environment Programme, more than 90% of plastic isn’t recycled, and without further changes to when and how we use the material, the organization projects “that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean” by 2050, releasing toxic chemicals into our waters.
Kenya banned single-use plastic bags in 2017 before outlawing all single-use plastics in protected areas three years later, and other countries and local governments have since followed in the African nation’s footsteps.
Muturi told VOA News that expanding operations to animal parks and other community spaces is next on the agenda.
The $20,000 awarded to Muturi from the Napier initiative — bestowed upon graduating seniors who showcase exemplary leadership in multiple areas — will support her work in Kenya, which has not only made a dent in plastic pollution but also brought joy to the children and fulfilled a practical need.
“To see them sitting here and enjoying everything that we’ve all worked hard for, it makes me feel good. It makes me feel like I have the motivation to keep pushing and keep doing more and keep finding more innovative ways to be of service to the environment,” Muturi said.
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