Recycling Plastic Waste

Waste plastic is an environmental hazard in many developing countries, particularly Ghana and Nigeria where drinking water is sold in plastic sachets. Discarded waste blocks drains causing flash flooding that increases the risk of malaria and is a hazard to domestic animals.

The aim of the project is to develop low-cost equipment that can convert the waste into marketable products as a basis for establishing self-sustaining enterprises.

Initial projects at IC in 2007 and 2008 investigated simple extrusion and hot moulding prototypes. Hot moulding seemed to show the most promise practically and was further developed in 2009. Good quality tiles 450 x 450 x 5mm were produced in an 8-tonne press and these were formed into other products by hot bending and heat welding. In particular the basics of a gutter and downpipe assembly were produced for a rain-water collection system. In these initial projects the moulds were heated in an electric oven and projects at CUL in 2010 and 2011 adapted the process to a more appropriate oven fuelled by wood and charcoal.

At the same time two further projects at IC have investigated an alternative recycling process of calendaring in which the waste is passed between heated rollers to produce plastic sheet.

30 students have been involved in the project to date.

Present status
Two appropriate technologies for recycling plastic waste in developing countries have been developed and proven to work. Further work is needed to develop these into production processes and to develop marketable products. The project is being progressed with the Fantsuam Foundation (FF), a partner in Kaduna State, Nigeria. Comic Relief is funding a study with FF in two areas of Kaduna State to evaluate the feasibility of setting up recycling enterprises and to produce a business plan for a pilot SME. This study is about to start.

Although plastic is an environmental hazard it is also a valuable resource in countries that have very limited resources for establishing small businesses. Estimates based on feedback from DT’s partner in Nigeria suggest that a small enterprise employing 10 persons collecting 100kg of waste per day and processing it into 400 floor tiles would break even in 3 to 4 months. There may be a viable market for other products made from the tiles and sheet produced from the waste. This indicates good potential and if this is confirmed by the feasibility study the next step will be to set up a demonstration unit.

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