Emerging entrepreneurs out to turn discarded plastics into pavers

Kwizera Ndakubana, mixes plastic bags for boiling. Photos by Joan Mbabazi.

One man’s trash is another’s gold, a popular saying goes. Plastic and polythene waste is viewed as of little value to anyone and often as an environmental hazard. But a group of young entrepreneurs have found their gold in what is viewed as trash.

In the process, they have mitigated the negative impact of plastics and polythene on the environment at the same time creating employment opportunities.

While doing their research, the three young entrepreneurs Gisa Patrick Matsiko, Kwizera Ndakubana and Kevin Mbabazi realized that there is a major opportunity in the recycling of plastics and polythene.

Some of the pavers made from the plastics. 

Their research on YouTube presented tutorials on how to make pavers from polythene bags and plastics.

All they had on them was Rwf 70,000 which they used to buy some materials and started a company, ‘Rwanda Investment’, located in Kimihurura.

Kevin Mbabazi, one of the co-founders of Rwanda Investment company.

Gisa Patrick Matsiko 22, a student at CBE University of Rwanda, Kwizera Ndakubana 23, and Kevin Mbabazi 22, a student at IPRC are the brains behind the company.

Patrick Matsiko from University of Rwanda. 

 The three are driven by a passion to create a sustainable solution to facilitate the government’s aim of reducing environmental degradation by plastics and polythene. Their company was established in July last year. 

According to Matsiko, the process wasn’t anywhere near smooth or perfect at the start, the first pavers they made were shapeless and could not be sold. But over time, they improved their craft and quality and perfected their creations over time.

“We put polythene bags in a big metallic container; heat the plastics until they are liquid, then mix it with sand, we let it heat for about 40 minutes before putting it in a mold to design the pavers. We then leave it for some minutes to dry. The whole process takes about one hour,” he said.

The entrepreneurs buy polythene bags and plastics from companies that collect garbage from people’s homes. Two sacks of polythene bags are sold to them at Rwf 3,000. When they get these polythene bags, they sort them out for heating them.

In a month, they can make about 200 pavers. They sell each square meter of pavers at Rwf 6,000 and they receive about 20 clients a month, they mostly sell to individuals.

The company co-founders explain that some of the challenges they encounter are mainly lack of machinery to ease the work.

Making pavers manually is time-consuming, they said. However, they still need capital to invest in the business in order to see it on the level they want it to be. The kind of machines needed cost about $25,000.

They say that they are looking forward to expanding to East Africa; invest in other products like making tiles out of plastic bags, impacting affordable houses using pavers, and giving jobs to the youths.

The young businessmen claim that they are not yet known in Rwanda and are keen on improving their marketing skills for increased publicity and a wider market.

“I would recommend everyone to try out something new; wisdom is not only acquired from school. There is adequate information on platforms such as YouTube where you can watch tutorials that teach you productive and profitable skills. Before starting a business, do the necessary research, determine how much time and money you are willing to commit, advertise and network in your area,” Matsiko notes.

He adds that, from their experience, they have learnt that it is important to identify investors or venture capitalists to partner within the process of establishing their businesses.