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Wine bottle chandeliers born from trash

Daniel Njuguna left his job as a swimming instructor to start a company, Mazingira Safi, that salvages and builds light fixtures from old glass containers

Milliam Murigi @millymur1


Beautiful green and white chandeliers welcome you to Daniel Njuguna’s workshop at Christian Industrial Training College, Makongeni, Thika.

Three wine-bottles are hanging above Daniel’s working table and their design is actually fitting for that room. Given how robust the table is, the chandeliers looks pretty heavy too.

Chandeliers are some of the products that Njuguna makes from waste wine and liquor bottles. Others include water glasses, candle holders and flower vessels.

“Unemployment led me to this business. I remember that one day I was walking along Dandora dumpsite where I had gone to visit a friend. I saw a heap of bottles and no one cared about them,” says the 31-year-old.

These days wine, liquor bottles are nearly a work of art on their own, if not for their design, then for their colouring. Crafters and artists know and welcome these facts. They are using glass bottles more. 

Daniel ventured into this recycling business last year after working as a swimming pool instructor and a lifeguard for two years.

To do the job, he needed a glass cutter, but he could not afford it so he fabricated his own using a piece of wood, glass and tubes.

“I was using the machine to make scoreline in a bottle and after getting the scoreline I used to use hot and cold water concurrently to break the bottle.”

After so many trial and errors he managed to get 10 water glasses which he sold to his friends at a cost of Sh100 per piece. The reception was good such that he received calls from other people who wanted similar glasses in big orders.

This is when he spotted another business opportunity. He did some research looking for an electrical glass cutter and how it could be made.

After six months he successfully managed to come up with the machine he is using now. It can cut up to 200 glasses in a day.

“Before getting to the final machine, I had dismantled two other machines after realising that they were not giving me the desired result. The first one was not giving smooth edges and the second one was not giving different heights,” says Njuguna.

With his business growing, he looked for bigger space because initially, he was working from his house. This is how he ended up at CITC.

He was given space by the principal who was impressed by his work and in return, he was to train the students at the college for free.

After the training, students who wish to buy a similar machine make an order and he makes it for them.

Early this year he registered his company, Mazingira Safi as a sole proprietorship.

He gets his raw material from dumpsites, clubs and individuals for free. And as a way of motivating club owners to be disposing of their bottles with him, he collects the bottles, upcycles them to make glasses, brand them before selling them back.

Water glass as a product goes for Sh50 and as a service Sh40 per piece. For wholesale glasses go for between Sh35 and Sh40. Chandeliers go for Sh500 per piece and this is the most selling product, flower vessels Sh250 and candle holder Sh250 to Sh400.

Currently, 80 per cent of the clubs at Makongeni have bought the idea and some are even more excited because he is disposing of the bottles for them.   

“The only challenge we have been facing is getting blue coloured bottles yet demand for such chandeliers is high. However, the best thing about this business is you only need to be creative to give your customers an exciting product,” he says. One can find him on his Facebook account, Mazingira safi.

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