This startup is turning plastic trash into construction materials

PREYO, a Plastic Recycling and Youth Empowerment Organization

Plastic is a real issue in Tanzania. Polluted rivers causing flooding, which has a large impact on agriculture, the health of humans and the environment. A group of changemakers are tackling the issue by picking up the plastic waste and giving it better use: repurposing it for construction materials. The impact in one year? Providing employment to 30 people, saved 50,000 litres of water, 20 tons of plastic waste recycled, saved 1,000 trees from deforestation. Challenge? The limitations of resources to access more efficient machinery. This tireless hard-working team want to exponentially increase the impact and is looking for good people who want to invest in buying better equipment. Who wants to make this happen?

We interview Erick and incredibly kind human being who is dedicated with his team all the education to make Tanzania a better country, healthy, with job opportunities, addressing the climate crisis by just getting rid of the plastic. PREYO (Plastic Recycling and Youth Empowerment Organization) is involving key local communities and directly contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Our goal is to help them find the investment they need to have a much larger positive impact. If you feel this is a right fit, would love to connect you with their organisation. For now, enjoy this interview and learn as much as we did!

Hi Erick, would love to hear a bit more about your background and what led you to start the Plastic Recycling and Youth Empowerment Organization?

My name is Erick Eliakimu a Tanzanian youth change-maker with a bachelor degree in education. I was born in a village where Agriculture is a backbone for living, as it is in many African countries, therefore the need for protecting the environment is inevitable. My parents working in agriculture were impacted much by plastic waste, for instance, often crops of production were troubled due to improper dumping of plastics. It became usual to find animals dead, like cows, goats or fish after eating plastic bags. We all would experience an increase in the eruption of diseases caused by the destruction of infrastructure. Water sources were incredibly affected, leading to a deluge of contaminated water during rainfall caused by blockage of waterways. Not to mention other environmental consequences because the plastic was removed through incineration which is a huge pollutant for our atmosphere. 

All those problems lead me to start finding out how to end plastic waste in an environmentally-friendly way. I teamed up with other colleagues and in 2017 we started recycling waste. Interestingly enough, many people in our community considered we lost the direction, as we were educated young people suddenly venturing into trash activities. Finally, we decided to register PREYO group as a community-based organization dealing with recycling plastic waste. Our main activity is to produce paving bricks and interlocking bricks, which are durable and affordable for construction activities. From PREYO we have enabled collaborations by establishing clubs in schools to educate young people and the community at large about the effects and measures to preserve the environment as a way to fight against plastic pollution.

@preyotz is a community-based organization dealing with recycling #plasticwaste. Our main activity is to produce paving bricks and interlocking bricks, which are durable and affordable for construction activities #circulareconomy… Click To Tweet

Sounds incredible! Could you give us a rough idea on where the impact of plastic pollution is sitting at in Tanzania?

Globally 90% of plastic generated remain unrecycled, 01% disappear as micro-particles during our day to day activities and only 0.9% is recycled. In our country, Tanzania’s biggest city is¬†Dar es Salaam which has a serious waste problem. It has been ranked as one of the dirtiest cities in the world by various rankings (Forbes, NYC Partnership Consulting).¬†The city produces an estimated 3,000 tons of waste per day of which only 40% actually ends up in the designated landfill the rest is either burned or illegally dumped. The rivers are crowded with waste until the rains come, where the waste exacerbates the cities poor drainage and causes flooding. PREYO is a startup aiming to reduce plastic pollution problem in Tanzania and Africa at large.

We are collaborating to attain global Sustainable Development Goal SDG13 (climate action) by avoiding incineration, SDG9 (industry, innovation and Infrastructure), SDG15 (life on land) and SDG17 (partnership to achieve the goal).

preyo startup tanzania turning plastic trash construction materials sdgs

What is your mission and the positive change you are seeking to create with PREYO?

PREYO mission is to restore, protect and enhance the environment, to ensure public health, environmental quality and economic vitality. Through PREYO the problem of plastic waste will be dealt with effectively as being used as raw materials that will leave the environment and atmosphere out of pollution. This will have immediate effects to improve agricultural production, infrastructure protection and decrease of pandemic diseases caused by contaminated water (resulted from blockage of water passage). Economically we will add value to plastic products and plastic trash where after installation of the plastic recycling industry where more than 2,000 workers will be employed thus are waste pickers and industry workers.

@preyotz has immediate effects to improve agricultural production, infrastructure protection & decrease of pandemic diseases caused by contaminated water. Economically we will add value to plastic products and plastic trash.… Click To Tweet

How are you organized in PREYO, how does a day with you guys look like?

PREYO management team we are the Chief Executive Officer, Abdalah Nyambi, the Chief operation officer, (myself) Erick Eliakimu, and the Treasurer, Enitha Abraham.

PREYO team comprises of 10 permanent workers and more than 30 temporary workers who are waste pickers, also gender is observed. We have our weekly time table where Monday, Wednesday and Friday is operation days of recycling where we collect trash, sort and crush them then melting and shaping products. Tuesday and Thursday we visit public areas and institution to make cleanness and to empower youth in schools.

preyo startup tanzania turning plastic trash construction materials

So once that you collect the trash, how does the process work for you to recycle it and convert it into something else? 

After the collection of trash, we start the sorting process; here we categorise the different types of plastics to afterwards shred each group of plastic into small particles. Once we have the plastic back to a raw-type material, we insert it into a barrel for melting. It follows with the mixing of the molten plastic with sand, a blend we put in a mould for shaping our products. The challenge we face now is that we are still at a startup level, therefore the process is somewhat complicated due to the limitations of our local equipment used. 

The challenge is that @preyotz is still in startup level, therefore the process is somewhat complicated due to the limitations of our local equipment used to turn plastic trash into construction materials. We are looking for… Click To Tweet

Recycling plastic to convert it into something else is a great way to push a circular economy. What are the most common ways of repurposing plastic?

Plastic recycling was commonly done with the aim to create decorations. At PREYO we have currently adopted the mechanism of plastic recycling to produce construction materials. Along the way, we have innovated by turning plastic to gas (plastic gasification). Our new project is to turn plastic into fuel, still in early stages as we are also searching on how to implement them if our experiments have a successful outcome.

preyo startup tanzania turning plastic trash construction materials

What are the biggest challenges you are facing at the moment

We are lacking a modern machine for mass production. The list below is what we need to fund to make PREYO a viable project:

BUDGET LINE Item Description Unit Cost (USD$) Capacity
Machines Shredding machine Number      1 20,000                       1tone/2hrs
Plastic Extrusion plant Number      1 13,000 600kg/hrs
Sand dryer   Number      1 5,000 400kg/hrs
Injection molding Number      1 9,000 300kg/hr
Compression molding Number      1 2,700 300kg/hr
Rotational molding Number      1 2,500 300kg/hr
Sub total 52,200.00
Raw materials Plastic waste 40 tones 8,000
Sub total 8,000.00
Operation cost Wages and other cost 1month 10,000
Subtotal 10,000.00

General total      $ 70,200.00

And what are you aiming for so that you can get PREYO to scale?

After the investment above PREYO will be in a position to excel into the business through selling its quality and affordable products aiming to reach 5,000 non-buying customers and about 3,500 buying customer for its first year and generate revenue of at least $15,000 per month. To give you a rough idea, one interlocking brick is worth $0.98/piece and a paving brick is worth $0.25/piece. We can expect the business to become sustainable after only 1 year and create about 300 employment to local population a day.

preyo startup tanzania turning plastic trash construction materials bricks

What would that mean in terms of the social and environmental impact you could make if you happen to succeed with getting investors on board to back PREYO

Currently, we invested $6,000 and managed to provide permanent employment to 10 people and 20 waste pickers. We have saved 50,000 litres of water used in construction activities, 20 tons of plastic waste recycled, 1,000 trees saved and 180 m3 landfills saved and increased environmental pollution to 43% in our community.

The environmental impact that could be reached by inverting in PREYO about 35,160,028 Liters of water used in construction materials will be saved in the 1st year,  20,908 cubic meters of the landfill will be saved. 2,207,852 trees will be saved and 480 tons of plastic waste will be recycled per year where socially about 40,000 jobs will be generated annually. 

The impact of @preyotz: 30 people employed + saved 50,000L. water & 1,000 trees from deforestation + 20 tons of plastic recycled. Challenge? Access investment for efficient equipment. #impactinvesting #circulareconomy #recycling… Click To Tweet

You are based in Tanzania, how does a social entrepreneurial venture look like there? Do you feel there’s a change happening in the country especially when it comes to communities’ collaboration and environmental justice? 

Currently, Tanzanian local population awareness and participation in environmental justice programs have raised due to the impact of PREYO and other environmental initiatives. However, the investment committed to foster environmental programs like recycling industries is low. We find that entrepreneurs, regardless of their patience, readiness and commitment towards environmental justice still operate using the local machine which minimize efficiency and targeted impact on the community. This means that many social entrepreneurial ventured into environmental justice is increasing but takes a long time to make an impact due to the little capital available, which has a direct effect on the capacity of individuals to commit. In order to bring changes, we need to invest more in recycling companies so that solid waste especially plastic to be managed effectively.

preyo startup tanzania turning plastic trash construction materials

If you could write a message on a big wall that the entire world could read, what would it say?

Our lives purely depend on environment. 

Not taking action to protect the environment is sacrificing our lives because we depend on land for food, water for agriculture and drinking at atmosphere for fresh air and pure rainfall. We need to invest in environmental justice initiatives, in our case we tackle the recycling industry. We are a Tanzanian enterprise ventured to fight plastic pollution of about 90% non-recycled plastics through the production of construction materials. We believe it is a great deal to invest in for sustainability and vitality of our environment. 

Not taking action to protect the environment is sacrificing our lives. We depend on land for food, water for agriculture & drinking and atmosphere for fresh air. We need to invest in environmental justice initiatives @preyotz… Click To Tweet

Finally, where can we find PREYO or get in touch for those who may consider to invest or collaborate with your organization?

Our head office is in Dar es salaam-Tanzania (east Africa) Gongolamboto-ilala Dar es salaam. If you want to reach out via¬†[email protected] or +255758564843. We accept also donations through our NMB bank account and it is a committed budget for the project (Holders name: PREYO GROUP card No. 24310015685 you can deposit your money). Follow our journey and connect with us on social media finding us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.¬†

preyo startup tanzania turning plastic trash construction materials sdgs

Don’t you find this project incredibly inspiring? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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