For two years Lorna Rutto, a Bachelor of Commerce graduate had a stable job at a local bank. However, although she could afford to improve her livelihood, she was not fulfilled. Her undying love for the environment coupled with a good business idea, inspired Rutto to leave her otherwise well paying job to establish EcoPost, which uses 100 percent recycled plastics to manufacture durable and eco-friendly fencing posts.
Ever since she was a little girl, Lorna Rutto was always troubled with waste littering the streets, clogging sewers and even encroaching homes. Her desire to clean up the environment was already evident from an early age when she started collecting discarded plastic to make earrings. She discovered quite early in life that one could get an opportunity from even what other people perceive as waste, and that waste is not waste until it is wasted.
While in Form Three, Lorna did her first recycling project at the National Science Congress. She collected broken plastic basins and heated them to the point of melting. She then poured them into bottle tops and moulded them into decorative earrings in which she pierced a hole and placed a hook. “I melted plastic and made ornaments which I sold to the other pupils,“ says Lorna, a fourth born in a family of five. In 2010, after quitting her banking career, Lorna partnered with a young biochemical engineer she met at her first job, Charles Kalama, and together they did a lot of research on the potential avenues in the waste management industry.
Kenya faces the triple challenge of managing its municipal solid waste, conserving its forests and reducing poverty in line with its MDG commitments. The country generates over 10,000 tonnes of garbage everyday, less than two percent of the land mass is covered by forests . Nearly 10 million Kenyans live in the slums with waste littering their streets and clogging their sewers, the situation is so bad that even Unep has classified it as one of the worst humanitarian crisis.
It is out of this background that they came up with EcoPost, which recycles waste plastic to manufacture durable plastic lumber that provides an alternative to timber while creating hundreds of job opportunities. The plastic lumber has a variety of applications including fencing and road sign posts, bollards, flowerpots, outdoor furniture, support beams for low cost housing such as verandahs, garage, cow sheds etc. Basically, things that were once made out of timber, Lorna makes them out of plastic.
Benefits benefits of this venture are lump sum. The products are easthetic, they do not rot, they are not prone to termites, are easy to work with, cost effective and are made from 100 percent recycled plastics. “Plastic Waste does not discriminate the rich or the poor and I can use it to change the dire situation in this country. I believes all work is honourable. Kazi ni kazi,“ she echoed. Rutto works with youth and women groups who collect the plastic waste from the environment and sell it to her for processing.
She use a shredder to crush the plastic waste into small pieces and an agglomerator to transform the flimsy plastics into small round balls. She process the plastic waste into plastic lumber using an Extruder machine. She then manufactures and customise the products depending on the clients needs. Rutto who believes there are simply no opportunities unless we make them is bothered by the desperate and destitute situation that most kenyans live in.
Over 46 percent of Kenyans live below the poverty line of earning less than one dollar a day. Every year over 500,000 youths, less that 10 percent of them being graduates enter the job market. “We are commited to making a difference and it is this passion that has been instrumental in to our phenomenal success in our waste recycling projects in a remarkably short span of time,“ she said. She has a track record of achieving outstanding results whether at corporate or community level.