Plastic Recycling Industry in Ghana: Nelplast is Turning Plastic Waste into Eco-Friendly Building Materials

Eco-entrepreneur Nelson Boateng shares his assessment of the plastic recycling industry in Ghana and presents Nelplast, an innovative company set to solve 3 major problems in Ghana: affordable housing, plastic waste and jobs. The company uses all kinds of plastic waste in production of building materials for construction, such as bricks for roads, building or roof tiles.

Interview with Nelson Boateng, Founder and CEO of Nelplast Eco Ghana

Nelson Boateng, Founder and CEO of Nelplast Eco Ghana

What makes Nelplast different from your competitors?

Nelplast recycles and adds value to plastic waste. We do not only clean the environment and create jobs, but we provide affordable building materials for the very low income Ghanaian. We have more than 300 waste collectors, mostly women, who collect up to 20,000 kilos of plastics and bring it to us on a daily basis. We scale it and then crush it, wash it if necessary, and feed it into an extrudor which has three heating zones since not all plastics have the same melting point. The paste that comes out of it is then put into a mold, pressed and turned into various products. The products that we produce have advantages over concrete because they are damp free and recyclable even after many years, unlike a concrete product. When concrete breaks, that is it. Besides, our products are 30 to 40% cheaper, which makes us competitive.

If your recycled plastic products are cheaper than concrete products, what are the difficulties in developing them further?

The difficulty has been that Ghanaians find it very difficult to accept new products. I have invested a lot in telling people that this is better than concrete. For three years, I have been paving roads for free to show people in Ghana that this product works better.

How do you show investors that your products work and are not just an idea?

We have created jobs and the environment is cleaner compared to when we started production. Instead of people just throwing plastic away, we are helping the environment. We are also seeing more demand than what we can produce, so that has been the progress so far.

Who are your main clients?

The clients are mainly individuals in real estate. They want us to install climate-friendly products for them. Real estate generates about 20 percent of our business. 80 percent of our contracts are with individuals who want to build homes.

Do you want to build your business by selling directly to individuals, or do you also have a strategy for the B2B market?

I want to move to a higher level but do not want to leave those who are at a lower level, so I am working with the government which gives me contracts. More contracts mean more plastic can be taken from the environment to be transformed into building materials.

Do you have an international plan to expand beyond Ghana?

Nelplast wants to go further to fight the problem of plastic waste. Rwanda has a problem of turning plastic waste into construction materials, so I have been called in. We will build machines and set up the same plan that we have in Ghana to start producing paving blocks. They need innovations to tackle their problems.

Demand is increasing for recycled plastic materials, so what do you need to further develop your company?

We need more machines. We import some parts for them, and they are very expensive, so we need a fund to build more machines. In order to accommodate all the plastic waste that is brought to us and process it into useful products, as well as creating jobs for people who collect the plastics and who depend on the work to put food on the table for their families, we need more machines.

How much do you need investors to put in?

For me to handle 20,000 kilos of plastics a day I need about 2-million dollars for expansion of the factory and to bring in more machines.

What projects are you currently working on?

We have about 15 projects ongoing. They are two-bedroom and three-bedroom houses. We are paving an area of more than 5,000 square meters and we are in the foundation stage. Each project needs to pay a deposit of 60 percent of their individual cost. All of them are individuals who have requested that we build their houses for them.

Where do you see your company in the short to medium term and what do you want to achieve?

Ghana generates more than 1-million tons of plastic waste and only 5 percent is recycled. We have a huge housing deficit. Nelplast has a goal to see every unmarried Ghanaian own a house. We want to see Ghana recycle more than 5 percent of its plastic waste. That is the only way to help the people, help fight the problem of plastic waste, create jobs and get most people from the slum areas and schools under trees. Nelplast wants to see Ghana be a neighbor among countries that do a lot of recycling because the 5 percent does not go anywhere. And the housing deficit seems like a very big challenge. That is what we want to achieve in the next five years.

On a personal note, what inspires you and what is your philosophy in life?

I was raised by a single madam and I understand what it is like to live in a slum area, or to have kids without a proper income to feed them. Even though it is a very difficult journey, when women talk about “depending on you to feed my family,” it keeps me going.

ABOUT NELSON BOATENG AND NELPLAST: Nelson Boateng is an eco-entrepreneur who has been running a plastic recycling business for years, producing different products from shopping bags, to bricks for roads, affordable housing and more. Nelplast Eco Ghana recycles tons of plastic per day to solve 3 major problems in Ghana: affordable housing, plastic waste and jobs. The company uses all kinds of plastic waste in production of building materials for construction, such as bricks for roads, building or roof tiles.


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