Ghanaian entrepreneur creates paving slabs from plastic waste
Ghanaian engineer Nelson Boateng is on the path to tackling the scourge of plastic pollution in his country’s capital, Accra. His company – Nelplast – is historically better known for producing plastic bags. However, having seen the writing on the wall for carrier bags – Kenya and Rwanda, alongside a whole host of other countries across the globe, have already enacted a ban on such items – Boateng started looking at other ways to keep his business alive.
Plastic waste is a major issue in Ghana and particularly in its capital – poor sanitation costs the country an eye-watering US$290 million annually, and much of the waste material clogging drains and strewn over beaches is plastic. Depressingly, only around 10 per cent of waste plastic is ever recycled.
By first shredding the plastic and mixing it with red oxide sand, Boateng’s company Nelplast is able to manufacture innovative paving slabs from such waste. Discarded plastic, which pollutes the environment and clogs drains, is collected from across the city and taken to his plant. Currently, Nelplast can create only 200 blocks per day – still too low for estate developers who have expressed interest in using the firm’s blocks. Yet, having been accepted into the government’s flagship industrialisation plan ‘One-District, One Factory’, and with corresponding promises of a low-interest loan to help the firm acquire more machines, Boateng is hoping to soon scale up operations in order to achieve a competitive 15,000 blocks per day, enabling Nelplast to compete with manufacturers of more conventional building materials.
Certainly, the product purportedly sizes up well when compared to competing materials. The blocks are stronger and better able to withstand the elements than concrete or tarmac, Boateng says – moreover, Nelplast’s slabs are cheaper, selling for around a dollar a piece, rather than $1.50 for concrete slabs. The success of the venture is still very much dependent on securing government funding to ramp up output, and one firm is unlikely to solve Accra’s pollution problem single-handedly – nonetheless, such innovative closed-loop thinking clearly provides an excellent blueprint for green growth in Ghana and the world beyond.