The amount of plastic waste produced globally is on track to triple to more than 1 billion tonnes by 2060. The OECD report predicts that developed countries will continue to produce the most plastic waste per person, although it is expected that emerging regions such as Africa and Asia experience the fastest growth due to rapid population growth and urbanization.
Plastic pollution is already a threat that is said to be disrupting the environment and endangering lives, but there is a glimmer of hope as the proportion of plastic recycled is expected to almost double in the same period to 17% as that increases the plastic that goes through waste management systems.
In Africa, Kubik, a recycling startup with operations in Kenya and Ethiopia, is among companies leading sustainability and plastic waste reuse efforts in the continent’s fledgling recycling sector, which currently recovers just four percent of its waste. the waste produced.
The startup turns hard-to-recycle plastic waste (polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene) into affordable building materials, including bricks, columns, beams and jambs, and removes 45,000 kg of plastic waste from landfills every day. The startup now plans to double construction materials production in Ethiopia before scaling to other countries within Africa, against the backdrop of a recently closed $3.34 million seed funding round.
Founded by Kidus Asfaw and Penda Marre in 2021, Kubik plans to scale production at its plant in Ethiopia later this year and says it has the capacity to build more than a quarter million square meters of wall area each year.
“This can build anywhere up to 10,000 affordable homes per year, for example. Speaking of affordable housing, there is a deficit of more than 300 million housing units around the world that are considered affordable for the poor. This is a $2 trillion-plus market that we have an opportunity to address, and we’re just getting started,” said Asfaw, CEO of the company, which won Startup of the Year at the 2023 Global Startup Awards and also was declared a leading climate company. tech startup in Africa at the VivaTech conference last week.
Investors who participated in the round include Plug & Play, Bestseller Foundation, GIIG Africa Fund, Satgana, Unruly Capital, Savannah Fund, African Renaissance Partners, Kazana Fund, Princeton Alumni Angels, and Andav Capital.
“We are delighted to invest in and partner with Kubik on their transformative journey. Its purpose-driven vision, exceptional team and unique business model, combining positive social impact, a circular economy and low-carbon construction, positions Kubik as a scalable and sustainable solution to Africa’s most pressing challenges,” he said. Climate Tech VC Satgana, co. -founder, Romain Diaz.
Kubik develops interlocking building materials, including bricks, columns, beams, and jambs, allowing developers to erect walls without the need for cement, aggregate, and steel. Asfaw says this does not compromise the integrity of the building and that the strength of walls built with their products is on a par with cement-based walls.
He added that Kubik’s products are at least 40% cheaper per square meter, and have chemical properties that make them safe, non-flammable and non-degradable. In addition, he says, these products are low in carbon, with a greenhouse gas emission of “at least 5 times less than cement-based products.”
Asfaw says the affordability of materials can play a role in reducing the current housing deficit that is due in part to a growing urban population and high construction costs. The startup is driving this change even as global calls for governments to introduce policies that reduce plastic waste and encourage more circular use of plastics continue.
“The world is urbanizing dramatically fast today, and cities are feeling the burden of unmanaged plastic waste, unaffordable living conditions (especially housing) and the impact of climate change. Our company plays a role in addressing all three of these challenges through a low-cost, low-carbon building solution that removes plastic waste from the environment. We think that’s why there’s a lot of excitement about our company and its mission,” Asfaw said.
“We have a product that is transforming the way we build sustainably and more affordably, and we see ourselves becoming a company that will continue to push technology in the materials used to decarbonize the built environment faster.”