Kilifi Recycle


Kilifi Recycle increases the value of plastic waste by manufacturing construction materials, specifically tiles and bricks, from plastic and sand alone, creating a circular economy and incentivising the cleaning up of polluted environments.

The project started as an MET project from the Institute for Manufacture with the first field tests taking place in Takaungu, Kilifi, Kenya in the summer of 2018. The community receptiveness to the project was encouraging, and, although originally designed to make floor tiles, the community adapted the process to make bricks for the construction of houses. A new team was then formed to support the community to develop a process that would enable the community to make these bricks and potentially turn it into an enterprise. This has included machine design that would allow the process to be more efficient and safe, as well as considering the wider aspects of the project including plastic collection and brick testing.

The project has been able to support other similar groups developing a network of waste-entrepreneurs working across the world.

Summary of the Technology

The manufacturing process of the bricks involves shredding plastic into smaller pieces, which are then placed into a kiln to melt. Sand is added and mixed into the molten plastic to form a thick, homogenous mixture. The mixture is then transferred into moulds, compressed and allowed to cool to form bricks and tiles. This process is low-tech and thus appropriate for low-resource settings where a lack of waste management infrastructure may be a problem.

The plastic acts as a binding agent providing materials with a competitive performance to existing practises: it has a high strength per unit mass, is durable and insulative: traits sought after in construction materials. Our solution is one of the few that upcycles plastic rather than downcycling it.

The Team

Aleyna Yildirim is an undergraduate engineering student specialising in Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering at the University of Cambridge. Her passions include innovating towards a more sustainable way of living, especially in the construction industry, and using her expertise to work with developing countries to expand their opportunities.

Egle Augustaityte is a 2022 graduate in structural, civil and energy engineer at the University of Cambridge. She is passionate about designing and working on innovations.

Shiv Kapila is a 2022 graduate in mechanical and aerospace engineering with an interest in sustainable product design and manufacture. His experience lies in the design of waste management machinery, and he is keen to apply his skills in a variety of contexts. Shiv enjoys the challenge of turning concepts into products and working in multidisciplinary teams.

Tse Uweja is a 2022 graduate with an interest in sustainable development engineering. This normally lies in the field of design and manufacturing engineering but also spans beyond this. She’s especially interested in the concept of appropriate technology and using waste as a resource.

Zinzan Gurney is an undergraduate at the University of Cambridge studying mechanical and information engineering. He has an interest in sustainable technology and the ability of engineers to provide impactful solutions to systemic issues.

Kailen Patel is currently a second-year studying engineering at Cambridge, aspiring to work in space exploration. He has a wealth of experience in mechanical design, rapid prototyping, coding and control theory. He enjoys using his skills to creatively conceive novel ideas.

You can read a bit more about Kilifi Recycle in the The Cambridge Engineer: Lent Edition 2020, pg 8-11, and on the Department of Engineering website here.

Click here to visit the Kilifi Recycle website.


All photos courtesy of Kilifi Recycle