Meet Founder and Managing Director of EcoAct Tanzania, Christian Mwijage.
On Tuesday 5th June 2018, the winners, runners-up and finalists of the COINS Grand Challenge were celebrated at a gala dinner and awards ceremony in San Antonia. Christian Mwijage made his journey from Tanzania worthwhile, taking the runner up spot in the Open section of the New & Emerging Technologies competition with his plastic extrusion technology.
Founder and Managing Director of EcoAct Tanzania,Christian is a social entrepreneur with a passion for the environment, recycling and green living. His interest in waste management started after completing University back in 2016 when he returned to his home town to discover that little had developed in terms of waste disposal in the capital city.
“Waste was still not collected and heaps of garbage still littered city streets, open fields and ending up in the ocean. I was also disappointed by the wanton destruction of our forest reserves and natural forests around Mount Kilamanjaro, which was leading to drought and frequent blackouts. With the zeal to make a difference I passionately embarked on a journey to use my skills to develop and employ innovative solutions in tackling the waste crisis facing Tanzania.” - Christian Mwijage
An annual amount of 90 million tonnes of plastic garbage goes into the ocean and more than 1.3 million km2 of the forest has been cut every year in order to produce timber that will be used for building materials.Christian’s enterprise works to provide a solution to both of these global issues by using recycled plastic to create plastic lumbers that act as environmentally friendly substitute to the wooden timbers currently used.
“We have developed a chemical free and energy conserving plastic extrusion technology to recycle and transform post-consumer plastic garbage and packing materials into durable and long-lasting plastic timbers.” – Christian Mwijage
The factors that are usually negatively associated with plastic waste is what makes them an excellent material to build with. Whilst the extensive time it takes for plastic waste to decompose is a huge problem in a natural environment, when used within construction, these issues become positive attributes, adding durability and strength to the structure. An affordable alternative to wooden timbers, the availability of plastic lumbers reduces the construction industry’s need for building materials manufactured from wood, therefore cutting down on deforestation and adding further mitigation of climate change. Simultaneously reducing plastic waste whilst protecting nature’s forests, Christian’s plastic extraction method already demonstrated a clear positive impact toward the environment and the future of construction but his approach to the collection of plastic added another dimension to the level of impact of his enterprise. Supporting the local communities, EcoAct works closely with individuals suffering from poverty and living in slums with plenty of access to plastic waste from the streets and surrounding areas. In return for their collection of plastics, EcoAct provide medical insurance to enable them to be able to receive the correct treatment and care that would otherwise have been a luxury that was out of reach, allowing them to have a healthier future to look forward to.
Christian’s inspiration was to change people’s mindset on waste and to look at it as something that could create reliable employment opportunities to youths. In just one year they have ensured the withdrawal of over 5.5 million kilograms of plastic waste from the environment, which have since been transformed into plastic timber. To produce the equivalent quantity of timber from wood would have required an estimated 450 acres of forests to have been cut down, so by offering this substitute product can prevent that, statistics he is justifiably proud to have achieved in such a short space of time.
His passion for this combined with his strong background in product design, management and marketing has helped EcoAct to become the successful enterprise it is today and made him a strong contender in the COINSGrand Challenge.
“I entered the COINS Grand Challenge as we are at a point of growth where we needed help in fine-tuning key segments of our venture and not only did they offer a cocktail of everything we needed but a chance to be part of a community driven by the shared purpose: to make a better world through education, research and innovation.” - Christian Mwijage
The runner-up prize was a £2,500 grant from Barrett Homes, but the Grand Challenge also proved to be an excellent networking opportunity for Christian as his commitment and impressive achievements securedEcoAct a further interest free loan of $7,000 USD from COINS Global and JBKnowledge. This partnership is all the more significant as Christian explained that loans are incredibly difficult to achieve and often come with high interest repayments so this financial injection into his enterprise was gratefully received. The loan enabled them to acquire a larger extrude machine from Kenya, which will enable efficient transforming of their already crushed plastic waste into durable building materials, including; plastic timbers, pavements and roofing tiles. Christian admitted that the Award played an important part in reaffirming the importance of the work they are doing in the community and it was a huge confidence boost for him and his team as he explained what is next for EcoAct:
“We intend to expand sales and marketing efforts countrywide and are confident that we can sell 85% of all that we produce inTanzania with the remaining 15% catering for the regional markets in Uganda,Rwanda and Southern Sudan. We are also looking forward to introducing other applications for our posts to take advantage of markets in bollards and roofing trusses.” - Christian Mwijage
They say that people with great passion can make the impossible happen and since Christian has already proved that what he is working to achieve is possible, who knows how far he can take it.