Amos Njiraini, 21, from Karura in Kiambu County, is seeking to re-write the narrative about pollution.
The Business Administration student at the United States International University (USIU-Africa) is convinced that simple and affordable practices that people ignore can go a long way to ensure a clean and safe environment.
That is why he has been recycling waste glass as his contribution to creating a better and cleaner but also more profitable world.
Njiraini has made environmental conservation around his neighbourhood a personal crusade.
With a team of hired hands, the founder of Eco-Create and Innovate gathers waste glass and fabricates it into table and counter tops.
“We collect waste glass from dumpsites, households, bars and restaurants,” he says of his nascent social enterprise. “We clean them and sort them according to colour. We crash them using a fabricated machine, mix the cullet with cement and a pigment for colour. We then make moulds of different shapes depending on the type of slabs we want. The moulds cure for seven days after which they are ready for polishing and smoothing,” he said.
Though simple, his idea holds a key to reducing waste, which has become an eyesore in many neighbourhoods, especially in Nairobi. However tentative his efforts may appear, this young man is making a difference.
“If we are unable to adequately manage our waste as a society, it is important therefore that we find ways of reusing this waste,” he says.
Through his campaign, he hopes to propagate environmental consciousness among Kenyans and to create goods of value out of waste.
Table and kitchen counter tops are traditionally made of natural stone. Granite, soapstone, marble and slate are the common types of stone for this purpose. Granite countertops are pricier. Extraction of marble has been blamed for air and water pollution. Fabricated glass countertops on the other hand are environmentally-friendly, durable and, most importantly, offer value for money, Njiraini argues.
The entire yard at his home is a striking spectacle, lined with stacks of sacks of waste glass, bottles with grime straight from collection sites while others are already ground into cullet, just waiting to be turned into finished products.
Although he has to balance between his school work and his passion, Njiraini says he derives both gratification from his sense of duty to the environment as well as profit.
“I envision for Kenya a culture of recycling not just glass waste, but others as well. My philosophy is anchored on three Ps, which is ‘people’ responsibly coexisting with the ‘planet’ for ‘profits’ and safety,” says the youngster.
Nairobi has a daily output of refuse in excess of 2,000 tonnes. Coupled with limited capacity in collection, management and proper disposal, garbage has become a nightmare and an eyesore.
When you factor in cartels and gangs that run the vast underworld of waste collection business into the mix, the equation of waste management in Nairobi becomes more complex.
This, however, has not discouraged Njiraini. He hopes to turn his resolute desire to conserve the environment and his entrepreneurial acumen into a thriving business in the near future. And his vision is simple: To eventually create cleaner, safer and greener neighbourhoods.
His project is one of seven innovations participating in My Little Big Thing, a science challenge organised by MK Africa, KPMG Kenya and the Cambridge University Sustainability Leadership Institute in South Africa.
The challenge aims to nurture innovation of sustainable solutions to social problems in line with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
One can vote for Njirainis’ idea by visiting www.mylittlebigthing.com/voting.