This Startup is Turning Plastic Waste into Bricks And Empowering Uganda’s Vulnerable Communities

Uganda is home to over 1,8 million refugees, making it one of the top 5 hosting countries in the world. The 48 refugee settlements in the country are mostly overpopulated and they exist in areas experiencing the worst forms of environmental degradation.

Growing up in the Kyaka II Settlement, Ronald Mugaiga experienced the consequences first-hand, to the point of contracting cholera when he was young. This left him with a little chance of survival but today, he is the founder of Ecomak Recyclers, a startup that is built to improve waste management across refugee settlements, encourage local businesses to have a more sustainable lifestyle, and promote the circular economy.

“Our mission is to help the community by turning waste into reusable construction materials,” Mugaiga says.

Ecomak has developed a chemical-free and energy-saving exclusion technology called organo-technology that helps to increase the melting process of plastic while retaining the physical parameters of the plastic. The plastic is then used to make bricks and blocks.

“The bricks are two times stronger than conventional bricks,” notes Mugaiga.” They have zero breakages once used and they are long-lasting and durable.

The most compelling value proposition for the use of Ecomak bricks is the fact that the bricks are 30% cheaper than traditional bricks. Real estate and construction companies are the startup’s biggest customers.There is a 700 million dollar construction market in Uganda. Ecomak intends to capture just 1% of this massive market in the next five years.

“Our goal is to capture markets in most of  Uganda in the next year and expand to the rest of East Africa in 2-3 years,” says Ronald.

Ecomak has created over 100 jobs for underserved women and youths in the communities of Kyaka II refugee settlement. While improving incomes through the exchange of plastic waste for cash, they have managed to collect and recycle over 30 tons of waste per month. The impact the company is making on a poverty alleviation and environmental level is unprecedented and the world will certainly be better because of it!


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