As the world turns attention to promoting a green clean environment devoid of pollution, one thing that has become a major cause for concern is the issue of plastic waste swallowing countries, especially, developing ones. It is reported that approximately 380 billion plastic bags are manufactured annually and only 7 percent of them are recycled.
But one young one man called Nelson is making some difference in Ghana. He is turning plastic wastes into something useful—bricks. Read on as he spends some time talking to your favourite page in the B&FT—Inspiring Startups.
Nelson Boateng, born and bred in Ashiaman, Greater Accra, is a product of the Ashiaman Senior High School. After his secondary education, he didn’t move straight into any tertiary institution but decided to work for some time. He got a job in a plastic company which made poly bags, plastic bowls, rubber buckets, among others.
Nelson, as industrious as he has always been, worked with the company for eight years and rose to become the manager. During this period, he took a diploma course in Network Engineering at the Blue Crest College in Accra.
While managing the plastic company, a situation rose between the owners of the company that eventually led to its dissolution. But for someone who has been interested in entrepreneurship since age 14, it became an opportunity for him to set the stage for his dreams to become a reality.
Nelson decided not to enter any industry other than the one he already knew—plastics. He set up a company in 2014 and called it Nelplast Limited which also started producing polybags and other plastics.
In time, he was not really satisfied doing the same thing over and over again. He wanted to change the direction of the business and do something innovative that will tend to solve a problem in the community.
He began reading and researching on what other things plastics can be used for that will be friendly to the environment. That was when he came up with a unique paste which is a mixture of sand and plastics to make bricks. Now having discovered what he wants to do, he moved straight into it.
Nelplast changes direction
Nelson, through some ingenuity, developed his own machine for maufacturing the bricks. From that machine, he can produce bricks, floor tiles, roof tiles, and blocks. The amazing thing is that the bricks can even be used for construction of roads.
He decided to test it on the Tema-Akosombo road, specifically Ashiaman -Tulaku, which had some parts damaged. He replaced the damaged asphalt with pavement bricks made from his plastic bricks, and it has forever remained strong, even stronger than the asphalt.
Through his innovation, a lot of job opportunities have been created. About 500 people have got jobs by supplying his company with plastic bottles and sachet bags which he shreds with a machine and mixes with sand to make the bricks.
His innovative product has earned him recognition in the country and even across Africa. Quite recently, Nelplast was contacted by the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology to help build its capacity technically and financially so it can expand and impact positively more on the environment.
The main mode for reaching people with the message of his innovation is through social media. He has accounts on Facebook and Instagram loaded with pictures and information of his products where potential clients can contact him.
As the saying in Akan goes: ‘every quality bead does not make noise’. Nelplast, through its quality products, advertises itself.
Nelplast wants to enter the international market, especially the African continent, so it can address what has become a continental canker of plastic waste harming the environment.
With such a big project and a big vision for Nelplast Limited, it cannot come without challenges. One main challenge the company is facing is what is common to all startups—financial constraints. Because of this challenge, it is not able to produce to meet the market demand which is ever increasing.
Also, a sad challenge is the mindset of people who hold the opinion that locally produced goods are not quality and will resort to patronising foreign products. Nelson says that is very discouraging to entrepreneurs.
How education has helped
Nelson, never satisfied with being at one place has attended a lot of environmental seminars that have helped him to hone his skills and this has contributed immensely to the growth of his business.
What can government do to help?
With funding being the crippling factor of every startup, Nelplast is no different. Nelson believes government can help start-ups with some funding or at least create avenues that make it easy for start-ups to access funds at cheap cost so they can run sustainable businesses.
Advice to the youth
“Young people who set their minds to something must be passionate about it, believe in it, and also work hard to achieve success,” Nelson advises.