Transforming plastic waste to build up Sierra Leone

struggling with many challenges.

Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world and struggling with many challenges. Plastic pollution is one of them. Plastic waste contributes to regular flooding, causing the outbreak of water-borne disease and damaging buildings and the infrastructure. Plastic waste enters the natural environment and, as it breaks down, ends up as microparticles in our bodies. At the same time, the western African nation of some 7.5 million inhabitants is in desperate need of
housing units. Fortunately, through recycling, sorting, cleaning and further processing, plastic waste can be used to make high-quality sanitary tiles or paving stones. The concept has already been put into practise in other countries, such as Senegal and Gambia. Better Future Factory NL is teaming up with Stiphout Plastics and a local enterprise, Home Leone, to make this a success story in Sierra Leone as
well.

How did this concept start?

Charlot Boonekamp, architect at Better Future Factory: ‘We are very passionate about the circular economy where resources are recycled and nothing gets wasted. Plastics are very difficult in that sense, as they not only contribute to pollution but also invade our own bodies in the form of microparticles. Better Future Factory is specialised in offering complex innovative technology to small-scale environments so that, for instance, recycling of plastics also becomes an option in Africa. We consider it very important that people get educated in easy-to- understand terms about these processes so they will participate to make it a success. As an architect it is my calling to help people with better housing opportunities.’

How did MAW help in developing the concept further?

CB: ‘Making Africa Work gave me the opportunity to go back to the country where I had envisioned to realise my ambition, Sierra Leone. It helped in finding local partners. And, of course, I was able to team up with Han Stiphout, my coach from PUM Netherlands Senior Experts, who is also participating in this project with his company.’
Han Stiphout, Stiphout Plastics: ‘In Guinea, Senegal and Gambia I helped as a volunteer for PUM Netherlands Senior Experts to set up local recycling operations. Now plastic waste gets sorted out in these countries, cleaned and processed or shipped for export. In Sierra Leone, Charlot and I are working together to set up a similar project.’

What is the current status of the project?

CB: ‘We’re now in the phase that we are looking for investors. We are very keen that they understand and support the big vision of this plan. Important is that, locally, products are made of the recycled plastic, so that people see and understand how the principle works. They are very aware of the problems of plastic waste, but that it can lead to opportunities as well, generating jobs hence income, is a new concept.’

What about the local input?

CB: ‘Home Leone is our local partner. Their vision is to create housing for people who need support, but they also offer job opportunities. The idea is to build a sustainable

We consider it very important that people get educated in easy-to- understand terms about these processes so they will participate to make it a success. As an architect it is my calling to help people with better housing opportunities.’

Business Plan Pitch. Making Africa Work. Pakhuis De Zwijger, 6 december 2017. Foto Marco De Swart