Photograph — greengrowth

Banning plastics seems to be a boon right now in Africa, with the continent’s rapid urbanization calling for an equally aggressive approach to devising eco-friendly waste disposal. But just as important as discarding waste is repossessing it, making what we no longer have need for into some other thing that we really need. That is exactly what Agroplast Ltd is doing in Rwanda, where the company recycles single-use plastics like water bottles and straws into materials useful for construction and agriculture.

Leon Nduwayezu, owner of Agroplast, said his company came up with the idea after Rwanda banned plastic bags. Rather than allow the burning of plastic bags, another kind of pressure on environmental pollution in itself, Agroplast decided to work with the Rwanda Environmental Management Authority, recycling over 1 ton of plastics today. Agroplast already has a waste reconversion plan, Nduweyzu told New Times but is waiting on the necessary machinery from China to start production. He said Agroplast had managed to make pavers for tiles, for instance, and that they had set up a plastics collectors’ network nationwide to supply Agroplast’s factory in Kicukiro.

Joyce Msuya, deputy executive director of the UNEP told New Times recently, “When it comes to banning plastics, we need to recognize that Africa has taken leadership. We have Rwanda, Kenya, Eritrea, and Tanzania has just joined. You don’t see that globally.”

And that’s the interesting thing about plastic bans. It remains the one global problem that African leaders seem to have a similarly aggressive stance against. 34 of the continent’s 54 countries have active bans on plastic, accompanied by hefty violation fines (as much as $38,000 in Tanzania). But more interestingly, monitoring bodies like the UN Environment Programme seem to think Africa’s approach is a great example for others to follow.

That’s not something you often hear said about Africa, on any subject. Thus the governmental champions of this strategy should be commended, so also homegrown innovators like Agroplast who are taking full advantage by reimagining and making alternatives possible. Not forgetting Ghanaian entrepreneur Nelson Boateng, who is making cheaper blocks for road and building construction from recycled plastics, saving house owners 50 cents per block.

By Caleb Ajinomoh.

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