Six Makerere Students Innovate Machine for Recycling Plastics

Written by: 
Oliver Naymwiza

A group of six students from the College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology (CEDAT) at Makerere University known as the Up-Plastic Team have innovated a machine for recycling plastics and steel waste to produce low cost sustainable building units like pavers, blocks, and bricks through setting up a plastic reuse workspace at Makerere University.   

Bruce Nuwagaba, the team leader said that the project was started in November 2017 under the Problem Based Learning (PBL) Africa which was initiated in Alto University in Finland.

He added that the project is funded by Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland and will be running from 2017-2020 in three universities that is Makerere University, Nairobi University and Dar es salaam University.

According to Agnes Akampa, one of the team members, the PBL project process requires collecting plastic bottles in an oven, cutting them into small pieces using a scissor, adding a mold to the plastics and melting them at 250 degrees Celsius to avoid burning of the plastics to produce poisonous gases.

She continued that after melting, one is required to remove the mold from the oven, add steel slag and mix before the melted plastics cool down. After mixing, one places the substance in the lower part of the compression machine so as to remove the air voids from the plastics while compression is still taking place.

The air voids are removed to avoid excess settlement after the pavers and bricks are formed and to also give the pavers and bricks stability.

After the compression process, the bricks and pavers are removed from the mold and left to dry for 20 minutes.

According to Claire Musimenta, a member of the team, they only carried out a test and demonstration but they intend to build a shredding machine for slicing the bottles in a few minutes compared to using a scissor that is time consuming. However, they are faced with a challenge of lack of funds and time to expand their project and begin producing their pavers and bricks in large quantities and sell them to the public.

Musimenta revealed that the Up-Plastic team has carried out awareness and sensitization about the project in various areas for instance Kalerwe, in addition to marketing it to inform the public about the project’s aim to eliminate plastics.

She said that they intend to market the project in other countries like Kenya, Rwanda among others.

Raymond Nsereko, one of the mentors of the Up-Plastic team revealed that the project is aimed at eliminating polythene bags commonly known as kaveera and plastic bottles which are a danger to the society. Nsereko added that they are planning to partner with the Coca-Cola Company and Kampala City Council Authority to achieve a plastic free environment.

Efforts to get a comment from the Deputy Principal CEDAT, supervisor of the project were futile as she was unavailable and could not pick up the phone.

Courtesy Photo