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How a Kenyan engineering firm is converting plastic waste into clean energy

  • By Grace Akinyi
  • April 20, 2021
  • 0 Comment

In Njiru town, off Kangundo road lies an engineering firm that has put resource recovery at heart with the aim of creating value from waste that would otherwise go to landfill.

The firm, Adarsh polymer Limited, is converting plastic waste into affordable clean energy solutions through a process called pyrolysis.  During an interview with the co-founder Patrick Watene, he says that the company decided to fill this gap that not so many Kenyans are aware of by embracing energy recovery that is rapidly gaining momentum globally.

“Demand for clean energy is growing owing to the increase in adoption of technology-based solutions among businesses.  As a company, we decided to grab that opportunity,” he says.

So far, they have managed to collect 5000 tonnes of waste and sustainably generate heavy oil fuel and carbon black from it.

“By using our baling machine, we generate environmentally friendly products that not only reduce the effects of climate change but potentially generate revenues,” added Patrick.

What the engineers do at the firm is break macromolecular structures of polymers into smaller molecules. The gas released from the plant is again used to self-sustain the plant while releasing the final products which are heavy fuel oil and Carbon black.

The engineers then use the residual Carbon from the pyrolysis to form “Safi Makaa” briquettes that are high in heat value compared to the conventionally used charcoal. They also produce plastic pyrolysis called SafiHFO which has low Sulphur content and is a green product.

Safi Makaa briquettes

In this whole process, Adarsha Ltd involves Community Based Organizations (CBOs) as indirect employees. They go beyond just recycling by adding value to the local-based communities in Nairobi county.

The nearby slum residents from Kayole, Dandora and Saika work for the firm as plastic collectors and in return earn income from their collections.

“Slums in Nairobi are one of the key places affected by plastic pollution. Our main objective is to address the plastic waste management sustainably thereby involving the residents in the entire value chain,” Patrick explains.

In Nairobi, municipal waste is usually taken to the Dandora dumpsite. Dandora residents who live close to the dumpsite are therefore exposed to environmental disease risks. Patrick explains that rather than the residents freely burning the plastics, it is only advisable to collect and recycle the wastes. 

Burning plastic produces very toxic fumes, such as furans and dioxins, which are very harmful to human beings and the environment. Most of the uncontrolled dumpsites are some of the major sources of greenhouse gases contributing to global climate change. We continue to incentivize the residents to collect these plastics and bring them to our firm for recycling,” he explains.

Having signed a one-year contract with Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC) in 2020, the firm looks forward to improving its workload efficiency. The engineers have bought more machines, received advisory services and gained exposure to their products.

With only one day to go, KCIC also in partnership with What Design Can Do (WDCD) is running a global campaign for designers and creatives with innovative ideas on how to manage wastes to submit their innovative solutions.

If you believe you have what it takes to rethink our entire production and consumption cycle submit your project here: https://www.kenyacic.org/