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Italian turns Kenya’s garbage into cash

Michela Consiglio started a company that recycles plastics after seeing the havoc it wreak in some of Kenya tourist sites

Milliam Murigi @millymur1

When Michela Consiglio originally from Sicily, a little island south of Italy, moved to Kenya from Congo in 2007 with her husband, she was surprised to see Kenyans throwing rubbish everywhere without a tinge of guilt.

One day she visited Maasai Mara and during a game drive she saw a lion carrying a plastic bottle. In another trip to David Sheldrick, an elephant shelter, she saw baboons rummaging through a pile of rubbish and she resolved to do something about garbage.

After thinking through many ideas she started Eclastic, a plastic recycling business. “Eclastic is a combination of Eco and Plastic. We produce beautiful products, made of recycled bottles and other plastics. Our products are 100 per cent hand-made. Each piece is unique. We cut, burn, bake, melt and assemble each piece with a lot of patience and respect for the environment,” she says.

“It is a small project; a hobby and passion. I would not call it a business as such because it has limited time as plastic eventually will disappear. The idea is to create awareness, jobs and cleaning the environment,” she says.

Michela Consiglio. She moved from Congo and settled in Kenya. Photo/MILLIAM MURIGI

She makes scarflet a sort of necklace-cum-scarf. The mosaic part is made with music CD’s on top of aluminum or brass plate. The idea is to give a bit of life and colour to a one- colour shirt.

Also she makes handbags with compressed plastic bags, elephant fridge magnets, jewellery, name holders and gift cards.

The most expensive piece is the scarflet that costs Sh2,500 and the cheapest is elephant fridge magnet that goes for Sh300.

“I settled on plastic because it is not bio-degradable. It stays there for years and years and also because the use of plastic in this country is absurd.

We receive donation from various people and businesses,” she says.Even though she is not doing mass production because everything is done manually, she has created employment for three people who cut the plastic to the desired shapes and also Kawangware Street Children project who supply her with packaging and paper bags. She sells her products to tourist and expatriates and she would love to expand to the local market.

She has a shop online and they participate at craft fairs like bizarre bazaar and their products are on sale in some luxury camps. Her elephant necklaces, key rings and fridge magnet are for sale at David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. She has also adopted two orphan Elephants, Embu and Dupotto and she would like to support more Elephants and similar organisations.

And what are some of the challenges she is facing? She finds it difficult to get good supplies to create a higher quality product because dirty plastic cannot be used and they need it before it hits the ground.

Often even the simple jump ring is difficult to find. Her plan is to film a documentary to show children to create awareness on need to protect the environment.

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