18 March is Global Recycling Day, a day for us all to celebrate the importance of recycling in protecting our precious planet. Rather than seeing waste, it invites us to see opportunity and today we’re shining a light on Eco Brixs, a social enterprise based in tackling the issues of plastic pollution and high unemployment in Uganda. Through a unique closed loop business model, Eco Brixs has recycled over 250 tonnes of plastic, created over 2,500 income opportunities for low income communities and is now developing innovative Eco-Products from plastic waste including as a plastic-sand paver for the construction industry.

Uganda’s Plastic Problem

Like many countries around the globe, Uganda faces a huge plastic problem. But what makes this an even greater challenge for the country is there are no formal waste management systems in place. There’s no weekly rubbish collections from people’s homes, or local councils tasked with dealing with waste responsibility.

Uganda currently disposes of 600 tonnes of plastic everyday and over 90% of this ends up in landfill or is dumped illegally. Trash is dumped on roadsides, on communal areas where children play and on the picturesque rural landscapes which the country’s tourism is so famous for.

Sadly, the current method for dealing with the sheer quantity of waste is to burn it, presenting a major risk to the environment and people’s health.

Tackling the Plastic Problem

Eco Brixs began in 2017 after 2 British Co-Founders, Andy Bownds and Gee Elliott, became increasingly frustrated by the lack of recycling facilities available in Uganda and the amount of plastic destroying the natural environment. In an effort to get it recycled, they started collecting plastic in the garden and over subsequent months, that garden acquired over two tonnes of plastic waste!

From there, the Eco Brixs model was developed under the concept of ‘give trash a value’. Eco Brixs creates this value (and an incentive to recycle) by paying the local community for every kilogram of plastic they collect, and in turn, through an extruding process, recycle the plastic waste into items of value, which we refer to as our Eco-Products. The revenue that these products generate can then be used to pay more people for their plastic waste, and so the cycle continues.

As the Eco Brixs name suggests, these Eco-Products can take the form of bricks or pavers for construction, but are versatile enough to create other items as well such jewellery.

Eco Brixs has expanded their reach across the country and set up a number of ‘Community Recycling Centres’ in busy hubs where people go in their day-to-day lives and can easily bring their plastic to for cash. The team then transports the waste to our main site to be recycled.

This closed-loop system described above also helps to tackle Uganda’s poverty and high unemployment rate. By paying people for the plastic, Eco Brixs provides them with the means to earn an extra income. Indeed seen many individuals go as far as turning waste collection into their full-time jobs!

Furthermore, in an effort to support the disabled community who receive no social support in Uganda, Eco Brixs focus on employing them to run the recycling centres throughout our network.

And Eco Brixs isn’t just focused on the present. Through their Eco Clubs programme in schools, they teach children about protecting the environment and provide them with the tools, skills and knowledge to start recycling from a young age to inspire Uganda’s next generation of change-makers!

Through these combined elements, Eco Brixs is forming a movement in Uganda based on social and environmental justice – one which allows everyone to contribute to solving the plastic problem and earn an income in order access essentials such as housing, education and healthcare.

Building Uganda’s Closed-Loop System

Despite only being established in 2017, Eco Brixs has had a huge impact so far with over 250 tonnes of plastic waste recycled, 2,500 income opportunities created, 20 recycling centres set up and 31 Eco Clubs established involving hundreds of students. 

Eco Brixs is now at a very exciting stage with the production of innovative products made from people’s waste! During 2020, they’ll be focused on completing a full factory build, capable of mass producing Eco-Products for construction projects, which is essential for dealing with the sheer quantity of plastic in Uganda.

There’s certainly a long way to go in helping to tackle the issue of plastic and unemployment in Uganda but Eco Brixs is showing first hand the power of enterprise to help address some of today’s most pressing problems. Like the message of Global Recycling Day, we’ve aimed to spread a message of ‘see opportunity, not waste’.

Would you like to help with our plans to construct the full-factory line and establishing a large-scale, closed-loop system to help tackle Uganda’s plastic problem?

Please do contact us at info@ecobrixs.org if you have some ideas, would like to share our message, or are able to support us in our fundraising efforts. Eco Brixs is a registered charity in the UK and Uganda.