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Protecting forests by manufacturing an alternative product to timber from recycled waste plastics

We recycle waste plastics and transform them into plastic lumbers to curb deforestation and climate change.

Photo of Chri M

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Explain your project idea in two sentences.

We use an innovative plastic extrusion technology to transform post consumer waste plastics into durable, termite resistant and long lasting plastic lumbers used for building and construction.

What is your organization name? Explain your organization in one sentence.

EcoAct Tanzania, social enterprise addressing the challenges of plastic waste and deforestation.

Is this project idea new for you or your organization? If no, how much have you already executed on?

For the past 18 months we have managed to withdraw over 4.5 million kg of plastic waste from the environment, used those plastic waste to manufacture plastic lumbers, hence saved estimated 350 acres of forest that would have been cut and same time preventing 2,500,000 kg of CO2 emissions.

What is the problem you aim to solve with this idea? How would you define this problem as urgent and a priority in your target community?

Our country generates 7,800 tons of waste every day (38% being plastic waste) which end up in streets, landfills and in oceans. And every year we lose over 400,000 hectares of forest reserve and natural forests around Mount Kilimanjaro due to increase in building and construction activities.

What is the timeline for your project idea? What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years?

Establishment of 6 Waste collection banks, 2 waste collection centers in each district, to enable enough collection of waste plastics and increase production to 400 plastic lumbers per day to meet the current market demand and provide job to more than 400 youths. Production of other building materials from recycled waste plastics which we have prototype including roofing tiles, pavement and bore hole covers and expand our markets in Uganda, Rwanda and Malawi.

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of responsibility).

Christian Mwijage - MD with background in Business Management and Marketing, Bernard Ernest - COO with Background in Environmental & Chemical Engineering, Madam Elineca Ndowo CFO - Background in Project Planning and Finance.

What do you need the most support with in this project idea?

  • Business Development/Partnerships

What is your primary goal over the next 6 weeks of Refinement?

  • Learn to measure and grow project results

How do you currently measure (or plan to measure) results for this project?

We measure on how many waste plastics has been withdrawn from the environment and prevented to end up into oceans, we also measure the number of plastic lumbers which have been sold (for every 25 plastic lumber sold, we save a fully matured red cedar tree), We also measure the number of families get access to medical insurance on exchange with their domestic plastic waste and also we measure the number of job opportunities created.

How has your project proposal changed due to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase?

The project proposal has not changed, how ever some feedback from customers and beneficiaries need to be taken into consideration. Customers are advising in using of the hardware shops as the selling points ( which need us to partner with main hardware shops in the centers so as to make it easy for the products delivery to customers ) and also have plastic lumbers of different colors.

We are a registered social enterprise established to tackle the challenges of post consumer plastic pollution, waste management, deforestation and climate change.

We use an innovative plastic extrusion technology to recycle post consumer plastic waste and transform them into eco-friendly plastic lumber. The plastic lumber is an affordable alternative to timber, which reduces the need for building material manufactured from wood, helping to preserve forests and cut down on deforestation and effects of climate change. Plastic lumber made from recycled plastics are ideal for building, furniture making and construction activities.


Background

Solid waste management is one of the environmental problems that most African cities are struggling to manage. As the number of residents in most cities is increasing so is the production of solid waste. Very unfortunate, effective environmental and sustainable measures to manage the waste are lacking. Tanzania generates about 4,800 tones waste every day of which 38% is plastic waste. Plenty of solid wastes can be found everywhere within the city and round homes. While both the local administrators and environmental legal bodies  understands the health risks involved, the lack of financial and technological capability has left the city residents grasping for help. Landfill and burning is the most common method used in our capital city.


On the other hand, we saw our forests are fast depleting, the growing demand for timber in building and construction activities was putting a lot of pressure on the country’s forests (Our country losses an average of 400,000 hectares of forest every year).  If nothing was done quickly, our country would suffer irreparable environmental damage. lucky we realized that If only we could produce an alternative product to timber that was strong, longer lasting, cheaper and environmentally sustainable, we could definitely profit from the profitable timber market while helping to save forests and same time reducing carbon emission, because one kilogram of plastic waste saves 2.5 kg of carbon emissions, and for every 10 plastic lumber produced, one tree is saved.


Our project Objectives:


-Reduce environmental pollution by recycling and transforming post consumer waste plastic from landfills into building hardware (plastic lumbers)

-Reduce Slum proliferation by providing affordable building material to developers

-Curb deforestation by providing alternative product in replacement of timber

-Providing an urban waste management solution for cleaner and healthier environment.

-Reduce the effects of climate change, by reducing deforestation we conserve our forests which helps removing CO2 from the atmosphere hence mitigating climate change.

- Increase community access to medical facilities, as we allow the community to exchange their plastic waste with medical insurance coverage.

- Advocate and promote awareness to the community, builders and construction industry on the importance of used products made from recycled waste plastics.

-Create Job opportunities to youths in marginalized communities


More details: www.ecoact.co.tz

Explain your idea

We use and innovative plastic extrusion technology, to recycle these unwanted plastic waste that are dumped and disposed everywhere littering the streets and clogging sewers and encroaching people’s homes into a less expensive, durable, good looking and environmentally friendly plastic lumber. The plastic lumbers are normally made in 10ft on average and shaped either round or square and are ideal products for building, construction, fencing poles and furniture making. Unlike timber our plastic lumber, they do not rot, are termite resistant, are water proof and last longer than timber, does not entertain growth of mound , do not splinter, outlast timber in application, can be assembled, drilled and nailed as easily as timber.

Who Benefits?

The project benefits more than 156 families, from three different districts of our capital city, beneficiaries includes youth and women from marginalized communities, they have access to employment opportunities and access to small loans for them to establish the waste collection centers and sell the waste plastics to us, Also the beneficiaries includes the 43 families who are currently on “Garbage Insurance Program”, This is a Health Insurance program which uses waste plastics as a financing tool. With this program, the community is able to pay for clinical services by using garbage as payment to an insurance scheme. The project encourages the community to mobilize their own unused resources to improve their access to health services. But our three year business plan ensures the withdraw of over 3.5 million kilograms of plastic from the environment and use them to manufacture plastic lumbers which saves an estimated 250 acres of forest that would have been cut.

How is your idea unique?

We are using our natural innovated plastic extrusion technology called “Waxy 2 technology” the technology enables the transformation of sorted post consumer waste plastics into durable, long lasting, termite resistant and water proof plastic lumbers for building, construction and fencing activities. The plastic lumbers are normally made in 10ft on average and shaped either round or square. Our innovative technology ensures our manufactured plastic lumbers lasts more than 40 years without replacement whether used in sunny areas, marine or in water applications.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Piloting: I have started to implement my solution as a whole with a first set of real users.

Tell us more about you

I am a social entrepreneur, passionate about environment, recycling and green living with a strong background in business and marketing. I am a founder of EcoAct Tanzania a for‐profit social enterprise that recycles post consumer waste plastics and transform them into plastic lumbers, which is a durable and affordable alternative to timber. I conceived the idea in 2016 with the aim of creating a sustainable solution to the growing urban plastic waste and the increasing deforestation rates. We are the first East African Start up to introduce and launch the “Garbage Medical Health insurance” – a social health insurance program where people give us their plastic garbage and we give them one year Medical Insurance Coverage. April 2016, our project won the GIST Award (Global innovation through science and technology Award) in South Africa and also in October 2016 we won the African Rethink Awards (Organized by Land of Africa Business in France) and in February 2017 We won the AFIF Entrepreneurship Award 2017. Awards 1. Global Innovation Through Science and Technology http://www.forbes.com/sites/tobyshapshak/2016/04/19/plastic-lumber-and-sanitary-pads-made-from-bananas-win-gist-boot-camp/#4bf5918233c9 2. AFIF Entreprenuership Awards 2017 http://www.emrc.be/our-platform/forum-b2b/afif/2017/award

Expertise in sector

  • 1-2 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered social enterprise.

Attachments (1)

User Map Experience - EcoAct Tanzania.pdf

User Map Experience - EcoAct Tanzania

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Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Hi Chris!

Thank you for sharing this with us. Am I right in thinking your project bridges planet (recycling) and prosperity (by providing employment for low-income families)?

I have a few questions. Firstly, is this the website of EcoAct - http://www.ecoact.co.tz/?
Can you include links to these sites in your post? It might be also worth including these news articles about the awards you won - http://innovation-village.com/ecoact-tanzania-pad-heaven-win-gist-startup-boot-camp-south-africa/ and http://www.emrc.be/our-platform/forum-b2b/afif/2017/award

Would you tell me more about what work you have done in this area, about the Garbage Insurance Program (are there any websites/resources to explain the scheme) and about the small loans for the establishment of waste collection centres?

Would you explain how you worked out the 3.5 million kg figure in your 3-year plan?

Have you seen A micro-insurance scheme using garbage as a financial resource in enabling slum folks pay for health care services twice monthly. ? What are the similarities and differences between your proposed ideas?

Do you have organisational filing information for your company?

Spam
Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Community Conference Calls: Have questions or want to learn more from the Challenge management team? Join us for our community conference calls: Monday March 27th or Tuesday March 28th!

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Lyjekibju8LNZ8yLDQhGaubEwuR0yEZV0ahTQhBjxng/pub

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Photo of Chri M
Team

Hi Kate,

With regards to Garbage Medical Insurance, We have partnered with NHIF ( National Health Insurance Fund), we have identified the community which we visit once per week and pick their waste plastics and give points, when the community/family reaches 120 points the family qualifies for Medical Insurance for one child in a family for three months renewable for four terms ( one year ) so we offer them NHIF cards for them to access medical services. We currently focus on medical insurance specifically for kids, due to high mortality rate in our country. I think is different form the other link you sent.

With regards to 3.5 million kg of waste plastics, this is our three years business plan, and that is the target we need to meet, We get waste plastics from either collection centers which we have given small loans to youth groups to establish or we get waste plastics from homes from our Garbage Medical Insurance program.

The links for the award has been added

Spam
Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Thank you! This is really helpful! What are the terms of the loans?

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Photo of Chri M
Team

Hallow Kate,
The loans are given to group of 5 to 10 youths who want to establish waste collection center, they buy waste plastics and add a small margin and sell to us, on conditions they need to have a letter from a local authorities confirming their identity, for the first time we give them a small loan enabling them to buy 2 tones of waste plastics, so when they reach 2 tonnes they call us and we go to the site and when we we pay them we deduct a small amount from the loan we have given them, we continue like that until when they finish the loan and they have raised their own money and the business capital became theirs 100%.

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Hi Christian and Team! We’re excited to share with you feedback and questions from our expert reviewers. We encourage you to think about this feedback as you continue to improve and refine your idea. You are welcome to respond in the comments section and/or to incorporate feedback into the text of your idea. Your idea and all associated comments will all be reviewed during the final review process.

Based on expert career, previous work and field experience, is this a new approach or bold way of answering the challenge question:
• yes, this addresses the critical challenge of both deforestation and urban refuse while providing health insurance to those who do not have it.
• Solid waste management through plastic recycling is a very long-standing and well established industry in much of the world. More of these enterprises in SSA are a welcome addition to the sector where many plastics are still being burnt or disposed rather than profitably recycled. From my perspective, it is hard to be bold/emergent or new in this sector. I would advise the social enterprise to look for financing in the commercial sector.

Desirability and Viability of proposal:
• This seems like a good idea for dealing with the need for timber (natural or manmade) as well as the increasing build up of plastic waste in urban areas. While I cannot comment on the technology itself, it seems like one that would be readily adopted if the price is affordable. I didnt see much mention of awareness building and behavior change which will likely be important to get builders and consumers to use the new materials (more info here would strengthen proposal). Where it will likely be particularly useful is in areas where high moisture content and termites affect the durability of building products.
• Replacing the forestry sector with plastics is entirely ill advised. That concept is undesirable and harms a vital productive industry. As a commercial forester who knows the potential of timber production in the tropics, I couldn't advise more against this philosophical approach towards the forestry industry. However, as an idea the solid waste management and plastic recycling is a great market to break into. There is great untapped potential across many countries in SSA in the plastics market, which typically has much more difficult margins than metals recycling. I would hope this idea could get financing from the commercial sector without having to displace forest products.

Feasibility of proposal (is this an idea that could be brought to life?):
• Yes, if the technology is sound, I think this could be scalable and replicable in other countries as well where waste plastics and pressures on forest resources are an issue.
• As someone who has produced a documentary on solid waste management and seen the transformative potential of solid waste plastics recycling in the developing world, I love the concept. However, as a forester I find the framing of the concept in terms of displacing commercial forestry to be very damaging. Tanzania could gain amazing benefits from commercial timber operations if they took better advantage of the large land availability and able smallholder farmers.

Other questions or suggestions our experts felt would support the assessment or success of your idea:
• It would be useful to better understand the plans for behavior change and adoption of these new building materials. Also, do those providing the waste materials value the health insurance as much as they would value cash payments instead?

In case you missed it, check out this Storytelling Toolkit for inspiration for crafting strong and compelling stories: http://ideo.to/DXld5g Storytelling is an incredibly useful tool to articulate an idea and make it come to life for those reading it. Don’t forget - June 16 at 11:59PM PST is your last day to make changes to your idea on the OpenIDEO platform.
 
Have questions? Email us at bridgebuilder@ideo.com.
 
Looking forward to reading more!

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Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Hi Christian,

It is great to see all the updates to your submission.

Would you tell me more about the job opportunities for the 400 youths? How would they be employed?

Also, what has been the feedback from the hardware stores towards the timber?

Are there certain types of organisations or organisations working in specific geographies that you are keen to connect to? There is another idea in the challenge that might interest you - A micro-insurance scheme using garbage as a financial resource in enabling slum folks pay for health care services twice monthly. 

Spam
Photo of Arianne Orillac
Team

Hi Chri,
I really like your project! It's really original and I find the Garbage Insurance a very innovative concept responding to a pressing need.
My question would be around data you have to support the technical qualities of the plastic lumber and it's properties since you are talking about construction / building. (consumer safety is what's in my mind when I ask this) Maybe you could include a link to this information.
Well done and good luck with the challenge!
Arianne
Arianne

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Photo of Chri M
Team

Dear Arianne,
In our county any product that goes to the market need to be certified by TBS ( Tanzania Bureau Of standards ) this is done in two phases, and we did the first phase already and got approval of our products.