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Saving the environment, one plastic brick at a time!

Business

Neo Matheka

In a country struggling with serious land pollution from solid plastic waste, ’Mamokhoane Mohloboli, has come up with a project that turns this waste into building bricks and paving blocks.

This is done through her company called Pretty Waste in partnership with Thuso E Tla Tsoa Kae Recycling Center.

Based in Baroeng, Botha-Bothe district, the project began in August this year as a beneficiary of a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) funding initiative called Innovation Challenge Call for Community in Lesotho.

In collaboration with the then Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture, in 2021 the UNDP ran the initiative, which solicited proposals from interested community organizations, youth and women-led organizations, civil society, media and individual innovators for the development and implementation of solutions towards management of plastic waste in Lesotho.

The objective of the initiative was to create a compendium of home-grown solutions, that are consistent with local context and practices, which contribute to the collective response in addressing plastic waste challenges.

UNDP provided grants to winning proposals for the implementation of solutions which demonstrate clear positive impact and strategies to plastic reuse, recycle, reduce, rethink, refuse, repurpose and repair.

Pretty Waste was among the winners.

Mohloboli had initially entered the UNDP competition as an independent candidate, but upon winning M100 000, she had to collaborate with Thuso E Tla Tsoa Kae to access the funding.

Also from Butha Buthe, Thuso E Tla Tsoa Kae deals with plastic recycling-related projects.

According to the project manager, TÅ¡epo Mahlaha, the project uses plastic waste, thereby helping remove plastic waste from the environment.  

“This is the first of its kind in the country,” Mahlaha said in an interview with Newsday.

“The most adventurous aspect of it over existing projects is that all its raw materials are available, almost free. The project is getting rid of the plastic waste, which is harmful and then turning it into something valuable,” he added.

He said their plastic paving blocks and building bricks are more durable and can last a very long time in the water without degrading.

Mahlaha indicated however, that being a new business venture, the project faces several teething problems.

He said the business lacks funding to acquire production machinery for its unique products.

“This type of recycling is capital-intensive as it requires special machinery for a consistent production rate,” he said.

As a result, its manual mode of production is labour-intensive and leaves them worn out in this early stages of the project. The business currently employs four workers.

Mahlaha said their productivity is also low because “it takes quite a while to melt the plastic manually.”

He said their operation costs were heavy, especially since it is still in the early stages of production and has yet to generate sales revenue.

“A huge amount of money is needed for the project to reach an industrial level and if someone like the government were to provide such, it would change a lot of things here,” he said.

Another challenge the business is facing in its early stage of operation is securing a market for its unique bricks, although there has been encouraging interest from potential clients.

Minister of Trade, Industry, Business Development and Tourism Mokhethi Shelile last week tabled the Environment (Plastic levy) Regulations, 2022, in parliament to impose a levy of 90 lisente on plastic shopping bags in a bid to control their pollution.

According to the regulations, plastic shopping bags which are subject to the levy are those with a minimum thickness of 25-35 microns and polyethylene, polypropylene, polyvinyl, chloride and nylon plastic.

The plastic levy will be collected in accordance with the laws and regulations that govern the collection of revenue by the Revenue Services Lesotho (RSL).

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