Nzambi Matee of Kenya is one of the 2020 “Young Champions of the Earth” winners selected by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). Matee’s young company, Gjenge Makers, takes plastic waste and turns it into building materials. According to Matee, using sand and a mixture of plastic waste can produce bricks, manholes, and tiles that are stronger than traditional concrete materials used for construction. Matee boasts that “Our product is almost five to seven times stronger than concrete.” What’s more, Matee’s recycled bricks are lighter and cheaper than more traditional construction products. This makes the entire supply chain of construction cheaper because transportation costs are greatly lowered, and obviously the materials themselves are cheaper.
The 29-year-old’s company is able to create “1,000 to 1,500 plastic products” in a day, and the target for her environmental entrepreneurialism is people in need of shelter. “It is absurd that we still have this problem of providing decent shelter – a basic human need. Plastic is a material that is misused and misunderstood. The potential is enormous, but its after life can be disastrous.” The business has already been certified by the Kenyan Bureau of Standards and as plastic is a problem facing not only Kenya but the world, Matee’s innovation could have far-reaching effects.