Gjenge Makers: Kenyan startup creates sustainable and durable construction materials including paving bricks from recycled plastic

Kenyan startup Gjenge Makers have devised a solution for plastic waste pollution by recycling and upcycling waste plastic into construction products such as paving bricks.

Made from a composite of recycled plastic and sand, Gjenge Makers’ paving bricks offer durability and strength. Tests found that the paving bicks were able to hold twice the weight threshold of concrete blocks.

Gjenge Makers aims to become the major provider of durable, recycled construction material through Kenya and the African continent. Their mission is to provide sustainable and affordable housing while promoting a recycling and upcycling culture.

In Nairobi, the population of 4 million generates around 3,200 tonnes a day of waste, of which 15.9% is waste plastic, according to UN statistics.

Gjenge Makers was founded in 2018 by female entrepreneur, Nzambi Matee, also a material engineer. The Nairobi-native saw an opportunity to address a need for reliable building products, alongside a greater need to reduce plastic waste in her community. She combined the two together and formed an enterprise addressing one of the greatest challenges facing her community: pollution and waste.

Gjenge Makers currently produce around 500-1000 bricks per day, recycling close to 500 kilograms of plastic waste per day.

To date, Gjenge Makers have empowered over 112 individuals, the majority of whom are women and youth groups, employing them as plastic pickers.

In the two years since launch, the Nairobi-based business has collected numerous awards and their eco-friendly bricks are proving to be a popular construction material.

Nzambi Matee said: “The alternative building products space is a very new industry and therein exist a myriad of opportunities. At present we have more demand than we can supply and this is the genesis of our biggest challenge, which is low production capacity. To date, we produce about 500-1000 bricks per day, recycling close to 500 kilograms of plastic waste a day.”

Earlier this month, the UNEP announced Nzambi Matee as one of 35 regional finalists in the Young Champions of the Earth prize. A global jury will select seven winners, one from each global region and two from Asia-Pacific. The winners will be announced later this year.

Gjenge Makers

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living. 

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