A Colombian company is partnering with the United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF, to convert recycled plastics from Côte d’Ivoire into modular bricks that will be used to build school classrooms in the West African nation.
“This factory will be at the cutting edge of smart, scalable solutions for some of the major education challenges that Africa’s children and communities face,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “Its potential is threefold: more classrooms for children in Côte d’Ivoire, reduced plastic waste in the environment, and additional income avenues for the most vulnerable families.”
UNICEF says Côte d’Ivoire needs 15,000 classrooms to meet the needs of children without a place to learn. The goal for this project is to build 500 of them in the next two years. Nine classrooms have been built in Gonzagueville, Divo and Toumodi using the Colombian plastic bricks, in order to demonstrate the construction methods and materials.
More than 280 tons of plastic waste are produced every day in Abidjan alone but only about 5 percent is recycled. The rest goes to landfill sites located in low-income communities, where it adds to health risks and contributes to malaria, diarrhea and other leading causes of death for children in Côte d’Ivoire. Instead, there is both an educational and economic opportunity in reclaiming it.
“We partnered with UNICEF on this project because we want our business model to have a social impact. By turning plastic pollution into an opportunity, we want to help lift women out of poverty and leave a better world for children,” said Isabel Cristina Gamez, the CEO for Conceptos Plasticos.
The partners hope to expand the plastic-brick concept into other parts of Africa.