Using one of the world’s problems to solve another is the philosophy behind a Norwegian start-up’s mission to develop affordable housing from 100% recycled plastic.
Since 1950, more than nine billion tonnes of plastic have been produced globally, of which only 9% is recycled, according to building tech company Othalo, while almost a billion people live in slums.
It has partnered with UN-Habitat – the United Nations programme for human settlements and sustainable urban development – to create components to build three demonstration homes to help tackle Africa’s housing shortage.
“In sub-Saharan Africa alone, the immediate need for low-cost housing is 160 million units,” the company says.
This is expected to increase to 360 million by 2050 as a result of rapid urbanization. But with today’s plastic waste, Othalo believes more than one billion houses can be built.
In 2021, the first factory producing elements such as partitions for walls, ceilings and floors from recycled plastic will be built
UN-Habitat says an estimated 60% of people living in urban areas of Africa are in informal settlements. At the same time, between 1990 and 2017, African countries imported around 230 metric tonnes of plastic, “which mostly ended up in dump sites creating a massive environmental challenge,” the agency adds.
UN-Habitat deputy executive director, Victor Kisob, said the aim of the partnership with Othalo was to “promote adequate, sustainable and affordable housing for all”.
Othalo’s process involves shredding plastic waste and mixing it with other elements, including non-flammable materials. Components are used to build up to four floors, with a home of 60 square metres using eight tons of recycled plastic. A factory with one production line can produce 2,800 housing units annually.