Enviu Business Developer Jasper was in Kenya to explore and validate a new SBI business concept: 3DfromWaste. It might sound impossible, but we are about using innovative 3D technology to create social impact. How can we improve the life of waste pickers worldwide by involving them in the creation of high value 3D print filament for plastic recycling?
Millions of waste pickers worldwide recycle waste in urban areas. Although their work is highly important to keep cities hygienic and liveable, their work is not always appreciated this way. The separating of waste is a dangerous job and recycle methods often polluting. Despite the value of their activities, waste pickers are highly underpaid and vulnerable to price fluctuations. The current circumstances result in health issues, child labour, nutrition deficiency and a general poor quality of life.
Our solution is the creation of a high value 3D printing filament from plastic collected by waste pickers. Through involving waste pickers in the creation of this product we can offer them higher prices for their plastic, a more steady income and a diminished effect of price swings. The process consists of three stages:
- Collection & Preparation: The central collection of plastic by waste pickers, the separation according to plastic type and the cleaning, shredding and drying the waste plastic
- Conversion: Using an extrusion machine turn the shredded plastic into 3D print filament
- Sales & distribution: Selling and distributing of the filament to local Kenian parties
While in Kenya for field research, we did exciting discoveries. We met with local entrepreneurs and important organizations working with 3D printing. Jasper: “We found that 3D print filament in Kenya is extremely expensive ($70 per kg of filament) and that this is one of the main barriers for adoption. The market for 3D printing is small but definitely growing. Together with local parties we will be working on improving the 3D printing eco-system in Kenya and will start exploring ways to help schools, architect and fab labs use one of the most innovative technologies that have emerged in the last decades; 3D printing.
During our trip we visited one of the largest waste communities in the world: Dandora. “It is amazing to see how waste is already re-used, recycled and collected. It is also shocking to realize how hard it is for people to earn a living (they only get $0.15 per kg of plastic) even though their services are invaluable to the city”, Jasper adds. Our focus the common months will be to find ways to transfer some of the huge price difference between filament and waste plastic back into the waste picker communities.
Applying Lean Startup Management
The business concept underwent several changes during our fieldwork in Kenya. In our business development process we work with the Lean Start-up method. This means you have a relentless focus on learning from customers and test your main business model assumptions as quickly as you can. We build a test,measure the results and learn while keeping costs low.
- 3D from waste
- Prosthetics 3D printed from waste
- Plastic brand for waste pickers
- Plastic for (local) 3D print filament
- 3D printers made from E-waste + 3D printed filament
Updates about further development of the business concept will follow soon.