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Kenyan engineer builds low-cost housing out of incredible recycled material: ‘What a legend’

“She just solved two of our biggest problems.”

"She just solved two of our biggest problems."

Photo Credit: YouTube

A Kenyan engineer has developed a way to build low-cost housing from a commonly discarded material, creating more than 100 jobs in the process.

The Female Quotient (@femalequotient), a business focused on gender equality, shared on Instagram how material science specialist Nzambi Matee combines plastic trash with sand to produce bricks and paving stones that are stronger than concrete. 

“In Nairobi we generate about 500 metric tons [551 U.S. tons] of plastic waste every single day, and only a fraction of that is recycled,” said Matee, who founded Gjenge Makers — a company focused on sustainable construction. 

The plastic-based building material has also been used to construct sidewalks, driveways, and roads, and the process has provided employment for garbage collectors, women, and youth organizations. 

“She just solved two of our biggest problems,” one commenter wrote. 

“Well done!! Another brilliant woman,” another person said. 

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, which named Matee a 2020 Young Champion of the Earth, less than 10% of plastic worldwide is recycled

The tripling of plastic production between the 1970s and 1990s has only exacerbated the issue of waste that has led to the deaths of wildlife and released toxins into our environment. 

Figuring out what to do with the plastic can be a challenge, however. Incinerating the material produces chemicals that have been linked to heart disease and asthma

More than one government has begun banning certain single-use plastics. Finding ways to reduce or repurpose plastic waste already in circulation is another vital consideration.

“Essentially, companies have to pay to dispose of the waste. So we solved their problem,” Matee detailed in a video on her company’s website, adding that the plastic acts like a binding agent and makes the bricks lighter and easier to transport than traditional ones.

So far, more than 330,000 pounds of plastic have been repurposed. 

“Recycling at its best,” another commenter wrote on the post with more than 270,000 likes, adding to the chorus of supportive and inspired voices. 

“Now implement it worldwide!!! What a legend,” another person said.

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