The innovative venture removes 100 tons of plastic waste from the streets every month.
Nairobi resident, Aghan Oscar, spotted an opportunity in the excess of plastic littering the streets of Kenya and turned the rubbish problem into a solution for saving trees. 13 years ago, on the streets of Kariobangi, a low-income suburb of Nairobi, the unsightly build up of huge volumes of plastic waste began to seriously bother Oscar. He quickly decided that something must be done to reduce this problem, and began his company called Continental Renewable Energy Co. (COREC), according to reports on his success.
His company produces poles that can be used for construction, farming and road signs. He has currently sold around 96,000 poles; a number that is constantly increasing. He claims that the only factor holding him back from even higher growth is the considerable expense of setting up plastic recycling plants, which he is hoping to improve by working with the Kenyan government to gain aid for entrepreneurship for conservation. The majority of Oscar’s customers are farmers and developers who have found huge satisfaction in the new solid black polyethene poles, which are a lot more durable than the previously used wooden fence poles. COREC’s innovative poles are also a lot more durable and cheaper than timber. One of Oscar’s customers, Caleb Kapten, from Bungoma in Western Kenya said, “I have fenced my piece of land three times using wood posts, but most of the time the fence was vandalized by villagers who used the posts as firewood. Now plastic posts have stopped the problem”.
One of COREC’s biggest customers, who have bought a total of 28,000 poles, is the Kenya National Highways Authority. Oscar approached them after countless road signs had been vandalized, due to criminals selling the metal poles to steel manufacturers. Oscar claims that his new plastic poles have saved the government millions of shillings so far. He said, “When I started this recycling venture in 2003, most of my employees were my family members due to financial constraints”, but now he has over 250 young employees who work with him to collect the plastic waste that he utilizes. His long production line has provided many jobs for young people, as he has 50 additional youths working on the production line. At this point, the waste is organized into different qualities, before it is crushed, washed, melted and finally mold. The poles are then arranged by shape and size to make the selling process simpler.
Oscar has big plans for the future, with aims to double his capacity, which is currently at 80-100 tons of plastic each month, to meet the growing demand. However, his main setback is funding, as the cost of the recycling machinery is currently very high. He believes that more should be done to support entrepreneurs who wish to start similar ventures but are unable due to the high start-up costs. The director of multilateral environmental agreements in the Kenyan environment ministry, Richard Mwendandu, explains that the government has not created any tax breaks for this purpose, although they are constantly running media campaigns to highlight the benefits of recycling and reusing plastic waste.
Oscar also highlights how his eco-friendly company is able to conserve many trees with the use of plastic poles in the place of the initial timber poles. He said, “One kilogram of plastic waste saves 2.5 kg of carbon emissions, and for every 10 plastic posts produced, one tree is saved. Recycling is definitely the best bet in conserving the environment.” Chief executive of the NGO called the Climate Innovation Centre, Edward Mungai, explains that financial aid and government support is crucial to the success of these ventures. He said,
“To fight climate change it has to be business unusual. Let’s help and encourage climate innovators and entrepreneurs through financing start-ups. We must think outside the box.”
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