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Feb 03, 2020

Thika company converts waste plastic into synthetic oil

Deep in the heart of Thika Town, a constituency that has been christened by many as the Birmingham of the region, lies Alternative Energy Systems Limited (AESL), a company that has come in to address the challenge of waste management. AESL collects, cleans and recycles waste plastic into synthetic oil that offers an alternative replacement of the highly pollutant industrial diesel.

Waste management in the country is problem with landfill technology being the mostly used innovation. In the periphery of Thika Town also lies the Kang’oki Landfill Dumpsite, a project by the County Government of Kiambu. AESL is making use of this project by employing local communities to collect the waste and deliver it to the company.

“We have a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the County Government of Kiambu where we have contracted Community Based Organisations (CBOs) to supply us with the lowest cadre of waste plastic namely sacks and paper bags,” Rajish Kent the CEO of the company says. “In total we have managed to create more than 700 jobs.”

Comprehensively, waste is at the most elevated level, yet specialists contend that it will continue being on increment. Estimates indicate that globally every human generates half a kilo of mixed waste, 11 percent of which is plastic waste. Of the plastic waste, seven percent of it is plastic bags. This poses difficult issues for urban communities where waste management is a key problem especially because most of this waste is non-biodegradable and also ends up blocking water bodies.  

0.5Kg – Amount of mixed waste produced per household globally
11% - Percentage of which is mixed plastics
7% - Percentage of plastic bags

“Plastics are the most difficult to manage, not only in Kenya but also in developed countries,” Sanjive Sachdev, the… of the company says. “We acknowledge that certain grades of plastics can actually not be recycled and therefore end up filling landfills; But here at (AESL) we are working on addressing part of this menace by recycling all plastics besides those with Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and Precision Thermoplastic Components (PTC) elements.

Kenya has more than 60 years reserve of historical plastics. This notwithstanding, the dumping of plastics continues to increase as the use of plastics is inevitable. Collecting these plastics is a also a challenge since some of the plastics are already buried deep in the ground and have been contaminated.

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“Currently we have a team of 60 employees involved in different parts of the production process including washing and drying the plastics, decontaminating as well as the production of the final synthetic oil,” Sanjmi Kent the … says. “We work on efficiency by sun drying the plastics and using part of the oil we produce to run our machines.”

Alternative Energy Systems Limited (AESL) is utilizing a technology called Pyrolysis. It has been tried and tested in other regions of the world. Through the technology, the company is able to process 12 tonnes of plastics per day. Their impact is threefold: Reducing plastic pollution, generating employment and producing an alternative source of fuel that has zero Sulphur and Chlorine and is smokeless, thus is not a pollutant.

By Solomon Irungu

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