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Entrepreneur makes eco-friendly construction blocks from waste

Major urban centres in Kenya are facing a crisis of mounting waste due to poor management systems, but this is beginning to change for Nakuru residents, thanks to the work of Kevin Mureithi. His company, Trace Eco Solutions Limited, transforms waste into building materials

Milliam Murigi @millymur1

Kevin Mureithi is pioneering for a building revolution in Kenya by utilising waste in manufacturing eco-blocks and tiles as part of an environmental conservation intiative.

The 32-year-old entrepreneur is the founder of Trace Eco Solutions Limited, a local company producing interlocking hollow blocks and roofing tiles exclusively from post-consumer waste materials such as plastics, glass waste and industrial leftover fly ash and quarry dust.

“Trace’s main goal is to contribute to the development of better waste management by designing, organising and implementing innovative local technologies that solve environmental issues in a sustainable way,” said Kevin, who also doubles up as the projects director.

The company borrows technological and technical ideas from other proven and renowned international players in the sector such as Eco pavers in Hong Kong and Tereco Pty in South Africa.

And how was the idea borne? In 2012, Kevin and Hope Mwanake founded a vibrant social enterprise located in Gilgil, Nakuru county, after being frustrated by the ever-increasing litter in the town.

The situation became worse as the municipality threw heaps of waste away indiscriminately. Three years later, there was no more space for dumping and as a result of this, the team decided to research on how the waste could be recycled.

“We decided to set up a manufacturing plant that will lead to large-scale recovery of plastic and glass waste from the environment, which would be recycled into building products that currently are on high demand,” he adds.

Raw waste material is sourced from both formal and informal recycling enterprises within and outside Nakuru county. A glass crushing machine is used to produce glass sand out of glass wastes, which is then mixed with normal sand, gravel and cement at proprietary ratios to produce a concrete mix, which is then pressed by a block machine into different building blocks.

For the case of roofing tiles, crushed plastic waste is mixed with sand at proprietary ratios. This is evenly mixed and heated using an extruder, which guarantees control of temperatures to minimise production of toxic fumes. The resultant polymer is then pressed into a hard-to-break roofing tile.

Their business has received monetary support from the National Environment Trust Fund (Netfund) to a tune of Sh1,354,911. The grant has facilitated them in undertaking hydrological tests, quality assurance tests and marketing support services.

According to him, the business has improved the livelihoods of young people by creating 20 new jobs directly in the manufacturing process and over 50 jobs indirectly from informal waste pickers who supply raw waste materials to the company.

This has translated to increased production units to 20,000 for eco-tiles per month and 48,000 units for paving blocks. The sales turnover for eco-tiles was Sh2.4m in 2017 while turnover for paving blocks was Sh1.1m the same year.

“Our products are affordable with tiles going for Sh100 per piece and paving blocks going for Sh40. This is because we use locally available products. We target locals who include individual homebuilders, County government contractors, and private real estate developers.

These are our most viable potential customers for the commodity,” says Kevin. And as a way of boosting their sales the company is actively working towards increasing its marketing campaigns to grow its market niche, establishing health and safety training and also connecting the company to a reliable source of water for its production.

“Our future plans are to recycle approximately 500 tonnes of waste glass and 400 tonnes of plastics in the next two years. This will ensure efficient urban drainage systems, promote cleaner urban cities and enhance better health for Kenya,” says Kevin.

In 2018, Kelvin Mureithi was among the top 100 start-ups who pitched at the Nairobi Innovation Week Forum themed “Innovating for a better tomorrow” supported by Netfund.

Mureithi was also among the eight finalists of the VIA water innovation challenge 2015; an organisation based in Netherlands focusing on innovative and disruptive approach in solving urban water issues in African cities.

Similarly, he has won Total Kenya Startupper of the year award 2016; which promotes innovative ideas in environmental sustainability. In addition he was selected as a 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow and travelled to the University of Winscon Stout USA for business training.

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