The Mr Green Africa Model of Recycling and Reshaping Africa through Plastic
What is Kenya known for? Its incredible wildlife, history, people, and now, Mr Green Africa. In less than 5 years, this social enterprise is the talk of Africa and the world, with good reason. They are tackling the dilemma of plastic waste the right way. Co-founders Keiran Nicholas Smith and Karim Debabe have certainly fused their banking expertise and love for the environment into what is truly a game-changer. When the duo realised that waste is a resource and the waste value chain needed to be inclusive of the informal sector, they not only transformed the community but also built a remarkable social business.
So here’s how it works: Mr Green Africa has buy-back centers all across Nairobi, Kenya. Suppliers come with the plastic material they will have collected within an aggregated period of time and they get paid for that material. The company has added a technology layer to this collection process. This enables Mr Green Africa to have a database of collectors, type of material collected and when it has come. A rigorous washing and shredding process ensues at the main factory and this ultimately results in the production of plastic products such as chairs, crates, buckets, basins, and bins. Mr Green Africa collects specific types of plastic, namely PET (Polyethylene terephthalate: largely used in soda and water bottle packaging), HDPE (High-density polyethylene: used in shampoo bottles and cooking oil jerry cans) and PP (Polypropylene which is used in buckets and crates.)
With over 2,500 waste collectors and 110 direct jobs created, Mr Green Africa prides itself on contributing to the creation of a circular economy where waste is eliminated and the continual use of resources promoted. It is also important for the company that they add to the value of plastic, convert it into its highest possible form and keep the value addition in Africa. Locally sourced and locally packaged things are the pinnacle of their endeavors.
Co-founder Keiran Smith believes that it is crucial to empower the informal sector and create a symbiotic relationship that benefits both parties. The company’s triple bottom line has been a major reason for Mr Green Africa’s success and their inclusive business model has helped the company to achieve its social, financial and environmental goals. It is absolutely impressive that they have managed to crack sustainability from a unit economics perspective at such an early stage. Collaboration has been a key component in the enterprise’s growth and evolution , with partnerships such as the one with Unilever proving to be quite beneficial. Mr Green Africa will soon launch a product that has recycled material in Unilever packaging. The future certainly looks brighter and greener with Mr Green Africa in it!
Listen to my interview with CEO Keiran Smith below to hear more on Mr Green Africa: