Lorna Rutto resigned her comfortable banking job in 2009 to start EcoPost, a small plastic recycling business.
Her business uses plastic waste collected from dumpsites and garbage cans across Nairobi to manufacture fencing posts. These posts, which are used to fence houses and forest reserves, are becoming a preferred alternative to timber.
So far, her innovative business idea has created over 7,000 fencing posts, 500 new jobs, generated more than $ 150,000 in yearly revenues, saved over 250 acres of forests and removed more than 1,000 tonnes of plastic waste from the environment.
You should read her inspiring story to find out how she accomplished this amazing feat!
What was the problem?
Waste is a huge problem in many African cities and urban centres.
Lorna noticed that Nairobi, the Kenyan capital city, generates no less than 3,000 metric tonnes of waste every day and about 20 percent of this is usually plastic waste.
Due to a severely underdeveloped waste management culture in Africa, it is a common practice for household, commercial and industrial waste to be illegally dumped in open areas, drains and dumpsites, causing serious harm to humans and the environment.
On the other hand, Lorna saw that Kenya’s forest reserves were fast depleting. The growing demand for timber used in building and construction was putting a lot of pressure on the country’s forests.
Intensive logging over the years has reduced the country’s forest areas to less than 2 percent of the entire land mass, and many tree species are now on the endangered species list. If nothing was done quickly, Kenya would suffer irreparable environmental damage.
If only there was a way to provide a close substitute to timber, a bad situation could be saved from getting worse?
Lorna Rutto’s brilliant solution to the problem…
In the midst of all these problems, Lorna noticed that the demand and price for timber posts was rising due to short supply. Up to 200,000 timber posts were sold in and around Nairobi every month.
If only she could produce an alternative to timber that was nearly as strong, longer lasting, cheaper and environmentally sustainable, she could profit from the lucrative timber market while helping to save Kenya’s endangered forests.
Plastic waste provided the opportunity to create a better alternative to timber.
Using plastic collected from the streets and landfills of Nairobi, her business uses a simple manufacturing technique known as injection moulding to convert shredded and melted plastic into durable and environment-friendly posts.
These posts are sold on the market and used as fencing posts, sign posts and for building and construction purposes.
The business, EcoPost, generates enough revenue to cover its production costs and overheads and is currently very profitable with zero debt.
It spends about $0.49 to produce one kilogram and then sells them at twice this price on the market. Lorna’s business has reached nearly $150,000 in yearly revenues but is still facing more demand from the market than it can satisfy. She intends to replicate her success and expand beyond Kenya into other countries in East Africa.
Today, her innovative idea is building wealth, creating jobs for hundreds of Kenyans and preserving the environment.
Within its first eight months of business, EcoPost manufactured more than 5,000 posts from nearly 300 tons of plastic waste, generating 700 jobs and saving roughly 500 trees that would have been cut down.
The short video documentary below features Lorna Rutto telling her inspiring story about how she conceived the idea to transform waste to wealth and her ambitions for the future.
This short video also shows how much she is impacting the lives of previously unemployed people who now work in her factories and act as casual workers collecting and sorting tonnes of plastic waste across Kenya.
Short Documentary – How Lorna Rutto became East Africa’s most innovative waste management entrepreneur
Lorna Rutto: The rewards of innovation and success
Lorna Rotto is the 2011 Sub-Saharan Africa Cartier Laureate. She also won the 2010 Bid Network Nature Challenge Award, 2010 SEED Award and the 2009 Enablis Business Award.
She has also worked with several high profile organisations including the International Labour Organisation (ILO) through which she received business advice, training in writing business plans, sales and marketing awareness.
The ILO also connected Lorna to places and organisations where she could access capital.
The opportunities in Africa’s waste recycling business are huge…
The number of entrepreneurs and businesses involved in waste management and recycling will increase quite rapidly in the future.
As resources like wood become scarcer and climate change remains a strong global challenge, Africans will need to reduce waste and recycle more.
Waste is everywhere; it only requires a bit of creativity and hardwork to create wealth out of it.
Apart from plastics, waste paper, textiles, metal, glass and rubber can be recycled into innovative products that solve a real problem in Africa.
If you’re interested in exploring the full potentials of the waste business, our article: From Waste to Wealth – How to build a profitable business out of Africa’s huge waste market will definitely be a good place to start.
If you believe this type of business will work for you, start working on a business plan and take action as soon as possible. You could also choose from many more amazing business ideas in the Business ideas section of this website.
We would love to hear from you about your successes, challenges, advice and questions. Do not forget to leave a comment in the section below and share this opportunity with your friends.
To your success!