This week, we will focus on a project which recycles plastic waste into construction material: the Eco-Co company proposes to replace wooden formwork currently used on construction sites in many African countries with recycled plastic formwork.
Eco-Co’s objective is to contribute to slowing down the rate of deforestation by reducing the quantity of wood used by construction companies and to participate in recycling plastic waste. Once again the idea of converting waste into raw material has made possible a lucrative initiative which is also non-polluting.
Claude Tayo, the entrepreneur who initiated the project is a Cameroonian engineer, specialised in civil engineering. He studied at the International Institute for Water and Environmental Engineering (2IE) in Ouagadougou before coming back to settle in Yaoundé. A few years ago, he observed that one of the key costs incurred on construction sites was from the use of wooden formwork, the moulds used for pouring concrete. This formwork, which is almost always in wood, represents up to 10% of the total cost of construction and is indispensable to work on the site. The current wooden formwork which is either not very sturdy or too heavy to transport to the sites, does not adapt well to the working conditions of African artisans.
Rather than being made from wood, the formwork proposed by Eco-Co is made from recycled plastic. The material thus developed is less expensive, lighter and can be reused up to about fifty times. For example, each year, 200,000 tons of plastic waste litters Ouagadougou alone, with no possibility of being recycled. In Ouagadougou, 8,000 home construction sites are developed each year. Eco-Co is thus participating in a circular economy: using waste as raw material and prolonging the lifespan of the formwork.
Eco-Co therefore hopes to prevent the use of 200,000 trees or 60,000 hectares of forest by this sector in the year 2016. Plastic waste is the cause of many health problems in cities in Africa. Besides, the use of plastic bags has been banned in many countries. This applies to Cote d’Ivoire and Cameroun since 2014, Senegal since 2015 and Mali since 2013. This ban has however not been very successful since repressive measures have usually been the only response proposed by the States: fines and even prison sentences. In Senegal for example, offenders pay a fine of 20 million CFA (30,000 euros) and a six month prison sentence. Rwanda however, is an inspiring example, demonstrating that the secret to the success of these laws is in supporting the people to understand this change in lifestyle: proposing alternatives, supporting production chains in recycling, building recycling chains, sensitizing, informing and educating…
Supported in 2014 by the La Fabrique incubator and launched in 2016, Eco-Co aims at convincing construction companies in the sub region to follow in its initiative. Claude Tayo is looking for new technical partners as well as new investors. In his action plan, he anticipates reaping benefits right from this first year of commencing business.