UNICEF, in partnership with Colombian social enterprise Conceptos Plasticos announced ground breaking on a first-of-its-kind factory that will convert plastic waste collected in Côte d'Ivoire into modular plastic bricks. The easy-to-assemble, durable, low-cost bricks will be used to build much needed classrooms in the West African country. Côte d'Ivoire needs 15,000 classrooms to meet the needs of children without a place to learn. To help fill this gap, UNICEF has partnered with Conceptos Plasticos to use recycled plastic collected from polluted areas in and around Abidjan to build 500 classrooms for more than 25,000 children with the most urgent need in the next two years, with potential to increase production beyond.
"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.”
More than 280 tons of plastic waste are produced every day in Abidjan. Only about 5% is recycled. Once it is fully operational, the factory will recycle 9,600 tons of plastic waste a year and provide a source of income to women living in poverty in a formalized recycling market. Nine classrooms have been built in Gonzagueville, Divo and Toumodi using plastic bricks made in Colombia, demonstrating the viability of the construction methods and materials. The bricks will be made from 100% plastic and are fire resistant. They are 40% cheaper, 20% lighter and will last hundreds of years longer than conventional building materials. They are also waterproof, well insulated and designed to resist heavy wind.
Alongside investment to build in Côte d’Ivoire, plans are also under way to scale this project to other countries in the region, and potentially beyond.