How 21-year-old Muhoza intends to help protect the environment

People sort plastic bottles at a dumping site. Right: Rosette Umuhoza. / Photos by Nadege Imbabazi

Rosette Muhoza is a student under Kepler, a non-profit higher education programme that operates a university campus in Kigali, Rwanda, pursuing Bachelor of Arts with attentiveness in logistics and operations. Together with her colleague, David Kizunzi, they founded ‘My Green Home Project,’ an environmental conservation innovative project that is designed to deal with waste management by recycling waste into fertilisers and pavers. The project recently won the ‘Green Growth Innovation Award’ and $5,000 at the Youth Connekt Summit, hosted in Kigali. Umuhoza talked to Women Today’s Sharon Kantengwa about the project’s intentions to contribute to the country’s waste management.

How did the idea to set up ‘My Green Home Project’ come about?

I’m passionate about making an impact in the community by bringing solutions to problems that are bugging society. The idea came about while at school; we were given challenges as projects and told to find solutions to them. We were working on environmental sustainability and recycling came as a solution to addressing the problem of waste management. We implemented the solution, because the project required us to be practical, do research and bring solutions to society. Once the school project was done, David and I decided to continue with our project because we realised that this doesn’t have to stop in school but we can make it something that can be beneficial to the community.

How does the project work?

It’s basically melting the plastics, although not all of them because some of them are harmful, so it goes with knowing the chemical composition of the plastic. We are currently working with plastics that don't have chlorine and while melting, we mix them with sand which will have a moulded shape. There are two African countries that have that technology, Gabon and Cameroon, but as time goes on, other countries will adapt. When we start we will be among the first countries adjusting to the technology.

What are your overall objectives for this project?

When we talk about plastics, most people think that Rwanda doesn’t have plastics but when you go to the dumping site in Nduba, there’s a huge amount of plastic.  One of our visions is to be the first recycling site when it comes to plastic. We also want to contribute to the community, you know that Kigali is looking to build infrastructure and so we want to contribute to that. In five years we also want to be the best recycling site in East Africa.

Rwanda is looking to completely ban plastics and is rooting for people to use recyclable materials, and there are also a number of recycling companies in this country. How do you intend to stand out?

It’s so surprising that when you hear about plastics and what the Government is trying to do, we tend to have this big picture of plastic being banned and immediately stopped, but it’s a very long way to go. Recently during a discussion that we had with REMA, one of our potential partners, they told us about how the process of banning plastics is very lengthy and that they were looking for partners that can recycle them. It’s true that we have companies that are venturing into recycling but they do only 5 per cent of recycling because there is a huge amount of plastics. If we talk about banning, the Government cannot completely ban plastics because at the airport there are many plastics coming in through the border and at the airport that all have to be dealt with. So there is still a long way to go.

How far can you say your project has gone?

We have already registered the company and we are already partnering with REMA. They visited our site and we’ve already done orders of the design of the machines that we will need. We haven’t yet started working officially but REMA promised to do advocacy and, they are going to connect us to other different companies that do the same things that we do.

Have you sited any challenges since you initiated the project?

First of all, my partner had the idea but we didn’t have it practically so we had to do the prototype. The first phase was a failure because we didn’t put appropriate measures, because when it comes to mixing plastic and sand, you have to be very keen on the measures. The experience was a bit discouraging but at the third trial we succeeded. The other challenge is working with people who are older and because we are younger, when it comes to providing services, they delay or they disappoint.

Apart from the prize money for the Green Growth Innovation Award, how else do you intend to get funding for your project?

Last year we pitched our idea to United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and they promised to give us support, and we pitched to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as well, who were supportive in terms of advice. Once the machines are ready, we will keep pitching because then we will have something tangible.

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