Thousands of plastic bottles thrown into the Ruzizi River in Bukavu, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, regularly clog the hydropower station’s turbines, shutting it down for months at a time and throwing the city into darkness.
The city’s plastic problem, on the other hand, is an asset for Elie Mapenzi Matabaro, who can make money while also employing young people.
His company, FDA Group, began converting bottles and other municipal rubbish into low-cost, long-lasting paving slabs that now adorn driveways and forecourts throughout the city seven years ago.
“There was no environmental protection mechanism in place. We launched our company to help with the waste issue “Mapenzi explained.
Bukavu’s mayor, Meschac Bilubi Ulengabo, said the city’s 1.6 million citizens have no suitable landfill, a scenario that is far from uncommon in Africa.
According to the United Nations Environment Program, 70–80 percent of municipal solid waste generated in Africa is recyclable, yet only 4 percent is recycled.
Mapenzi’s garbage collectors deliver mounds of plastic to the plant every day, where it is melted and scraped into hexagonal metal moulds.
The plastic is tapped out, piled high, and sold to buyers once it has cooled.
“The benefit of these cobblestones is that they are less expensive than cement cobblestones,” remarked Obedi Erodia, who has a red and black tessellating block driveway.
Erodia prefers plastic paving because it is easier to clean and aids in the reduction of pollution in his province, according to him.
Men in scuba gear dive into the turbine inlets at the hydropower facility, while others in boats collect rubbish floating on the surface.
According to Lievin Chizungu of the National Society of Electricity, which operates the plant, a rubbish blockage has clogged one of the turbines for the past two and a half months, causing power outages around the city.
“Unfortunately, there are no dumps, so people toss their trash in the gutters, where it washes up here at the dam,” Chizungu explained.
Mapenzi has reached an agreement with the plant owner to remove the plastics.
He stated, “It is business that enables us turn an environmental problem into an economic resource.”