Plastic Waste Recycle: Othalo Building Tech to create demonstrator homes in Nairobi

Artist's impression of Othalo Plastic homes. Image

Like many countries across the world, plastic waste management in Kenya has been an endless discussion aiming to reduce the effects of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) to the environment.

The government of Kenya through the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) imposed the single use plastic bag ban in 2017 however; continuous use of PET plastic bottles has emerged as the top polluter in water bodies and land, especially in major cities like Nairobi.

The city is estimated to produce around 2,400 tonnes of waste a day, of which roughly 60% is collected and only around 10% recycled. The rest is dumped illegally in water bodies (Nairobi River) and around slum areas, where residents live in makeshift houses with poor environmental conditions.

Africa has been experiencing human settlement shortage since independence, with at least 160 million affordable houses needed to accommodate over a billion slum dwellers in Sub-Saharan African major cities.

PET bottle waste. Image|Courtesy

The government of Kenya has moved a notch high by introducing the Big Four Agenda–two, on Affordable Housing, a move that has attracted investors. And as Othalo, a building tech company, embarks on a mission to develop affordable housing from 100% recycled plastic, Nairobi residents can now be assured of affordable housing units and clean plastic-free environment.

The Norwegian start-up has entered into a partnership with UN-Habitat –the United Nations programme for human settlements and sustainable urban development – in a bid to build three demonstration homes, as part of the move to help tackle Africa’s housing shortage, especially in slum areas.

“We have selected three major cities in Africa –Nairobi (Kenya), Yaoundé (Cameroon), and Dakar (Senegal). The immediate need for low-cost housing in these cities is 160 million units, which is expected to increase to 360 million by 2050 as a result of rapid urbanization. But with today's plastic waste, we believe more than one billion houses can be built,” says Othalo founder Frank Cato Lahti.

Lahti says that Othalo will be the first factory producing elements such as partitions for walls, ceilings and floors from recycled plastic in Kenya, adding that the company intents to fully run its operations from 2021.

According to WeForum, the company recycle process involves shredding plastic waste and mixing it with other elements, including non-flammable materials, which produces components used to build up to four floors, with a home of 60 square metres using eight tons of recycled plastic. A factory with one production line can produce 2,800 housing units annually.

UN Habitat says the partnership with Othalo targets over 60% of people living urban areas, under slum residence.

“The aim of this partnership is to “promote adequate, sustainable and affordable housing for all. Almost seven out of every 10 people in the world are expected to live in urban areas by 2050. More than 90% of this growth will take place in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean, and in the absence of effective urban planning, the consequences of this rapid urbanization will be dramatic –a move that prompted the deal," says UN Habitat Deputy Executive Director, Victor Kisob.

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