Second life for plastic at Regeneration Africa Environmental Services

14 June 2017 | ResolutionPossible

We all know that plastic is bad, that it takes decades to decompose, that its toxins seep into our earth, that it is eaten by animals on land and in the water leading to their suffering and death, and ends up in our bodies, too. Plastic is bad news, especially single use plastic. If you think about how briefly you use a plastic object (a plastic straw, a coffee cup, a drinks bottle, a plastic carrier bag) compared to how long it takes to decompose, and the amount of damage it does along the way: it is really not worth it.

But we all still use it.

Enter Samuel Ngumba Ngaruiya: entrepreneur, former businessman in the US, returning to his native Kenya to make a difference. Samuel quickly recognised the overwhelming litter problem in Kenya. Everywhere you look in areas where people live, there is rubbish by the sides of the street, around people’s homes, in school playgrounds, in bushes and trees, in rivers, in the sea and on the beaches.

Top left: Samuel Ngumba Ngaruiya, director of Regeneration Environmental Services in Malindi, Kenya. Plastic is brought to the workshop by local people and stored in the big white bags until Samuel and his team sort the plastic and prepare it to be used as building materials.

In the town of Malindi on the Kenyan coast, Samuel decided to explore how he could encourage the local community to stop littering, and at the same time find a new purpose for all this single-use plastic.

Together with Lilian Wangari Mungai-Ngumba he founded Regeneration Environmental Services (also referred to as Regeneration Africa). They found a way to make building materials such as paving tiles and fence posts out of a mixture of the various types of discarded plastic.

At the workshop in Malindi, Samuel’s social enterprise stores any plastic that local people bring in. Regeneration Environmental Services pay for the collection, giving people an extra incentive to start picking up litter. The plastic is sorted, and then washed in several basins. The various types of plastic are mixed, and shovelled into a hot machine that melts the plastic into a thick, black goo.

sorting plastic; Regeneration Environmental Services; Regeneration Africa; recycle; plastic; Malindi; Kenya

Regeneration Environmental Services; Regeneration Africa; cleaning basins; recycle; plastic; Malindi; Kenya

Samuel Ngumba Ngaruiya; tiles; floor tiles; Regeneration Africa; types of plastic; melting; recycle; plastic; Malindi; Kenya

Samuel Ngumba Ngaruiya; Samuel Ngumba Ngaruiya; Regeneration Africa; Regeneration Environmental Services; waste; rubbish; types of plastic; melting; recycle; plastic; Malindi; Kenya; fence; posts; poles; fence posts

Top left: Plastic in all shapes and sizes is collected the Regeneration Environmental Services workshop.

Top right: The plastic is sorted, shredded and washed in these basins.

Bottom left: Samuel Ngumba Ngaruiya taking an order standing next to some of the finished product – paving blocks or tiles tiles made entirely from used plastic.

Bottom right: A close up of one of the fence posts made by Samuel and his team. They leave some plastic flakes in the mixture to remind us what these posts are made of.


The melted plastic can then be poured into moulds to produce the required product. In addition to the paving tiles and fence posts, Regeneration now also produce street signs. The recycled plastic is more durable that concrete, says Samuel, making it an attractive alternative. Additionally, opting for recycled plastic rather than wood, for the fence posts for example, is saving thousands of trees.

Samuel’s latest endeavour is the construction of a traditional Swahili dhow (sailing boat) using recycled plastic. Once Samuel’s team have finished making all the parts, the dhow is to be built in the town of Lamu which is famous for its skilled traditional dhow builders. The dhow will sail from Lamu in Kenya to Cape Town (South Africa), and hopefully on to the UK as part of the FlipFlopi Project. The team want to use the journey and the dhow as a tool to spread the message about problems caused by the production and consumption of single use plastics. Watch this video where Samuel himself explains the process.

Flipflopi expedition; plastic waste; sailing boat; waste; dhow; Lamu; Kenya; Cape Town; Plastic Revolution

Flipflopi expedition; plastic waste; sailing boat; waste; dhow; Lamu; Kenya; Cape Town; Plastic revolution


Left: The Regeneration Environmental Services team with one of the moulds used to create the parts for the dhow, which will be made entirely out of recycled plastic. Right: Samuel and one of his members of staff with a completed part for the dhow. The pieces will all be transported to Lamu, north of Malindi, to be put together by expert dhow builders to build the ship that will be sailing all the way to Cape Town in South Africa.

Further information

The Making of a Boat From Waste Plastics by Regeneration Environmental Services
About Regeneration Environmental Services
About The FlipFlopi Expedition

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