Sustainability through recycling organic waste

Wangari Njoroge

Climate change has pushed nations to working in together to reduce carbon emissions, combat climate change, adapt sustainable and eco-friendly solutions and achieve the 1.5°C limit set by the Paris Agreement.

A research by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) in 2020 indicated that every day, urban centres in Kenya produce between 0.31 to 0.75 kilograms of solid waste per person. However, less than half of this waste is collected, piled up and discarded unsustainably and only about 8% being recycled.

Unfortunately, the majority of it ends up in landfills and dumpsites, causing pollution, health issues and harm to the environment.

Over the years, waste management systems have often involved a linear approach comprising of organic waste generation, collection, emptying and transport, treatment to some extent and finally disposal.

Company behind the idea

The last stage of disposal as an ‘end-of-life’ phase nonetheless, the national and county governments as well as individual interventions are being utilized to ensure a circular approach where instead of disposal, organic waste is recycled or reused; thus PineKazi.

Pinekazi uses Nasitext, a sustainable fabric used as the upper material to craft sustainable footwear.

How it began

In 2019, an innovative idea was conceived by three university students; Mike Lang’at, Olivia Awuor and Angela Nzomo, a trio from the Africa Nazarene University.

Their concern was about the amount of pineapple waste produced in at the Kenyan Delmonte farm without a proper elimination plan

Ms. Awuor, the Chief Executive and Co-founder of Pinekazi explains that the encounter led to intensive research on crop waste management in Kenya.

“After months of research, we realized that crop waste management is a serious challenge in Kenya which is often ignored and uncontested. We vowed to solve the problem,” said Ms. Awuor.

Six months later, the trio would make their first bag.

“In 2019, the country was transitioning from use of plastic bags to environment-friendly ones and since we had managed to come up with a pineapple based textile, this was a big opportunity for us; that is why we decided to venture into bag making at first,” Ms. Awuor further explained.

However, the idea was short-lived due to legislation of bag production in Kenya.

The young entrepreneurs, determined to drive environmental change sought for other gaps in the Kenyan market where their new innovation would bring a solution.

A pineapple farm at Delamare in Kenya. This is where the idea of reusing pineapple waste started for the three Africa Nazarene Students.

“At that time, most shoes in the country were imported and the government had highly prioritized local shoe production. We identified this opportunity and worked with textile engineers who guided us and gave us knowledge that was useful and necessary in crafting the shoes,” the young CEO stated.

Months of grind

In an interview, the young innovators explained that their first pair of shoes’ prototype was released five months later after the shoe-crafting idea came to mind.

“The first shoe prototype saw us work by hand for five months to actualize the idea. We were all so excited when we made out first show,” beamed Ms. Awuor.

The pineapple fruit has Nasitext, a sustainable fabric used as the upper material to craft sustainable footwear

The young start up started to get both local and international attention in 2020, then, they would produce up to 10 pairs of shoes daily, which was low supply compared to the demand.

When they partnered with Kenya Airways (KQ) to supply shoes for their staff, the team had to acquire a machine that would increase their supply so as to cope with the market demand.

“The KQ’s special order to deliver customized shoes for their staff was our first big order that kept us on our toes as we needed to produce the best for the carrier line personnel,” Ms. Nzomo, the co-founder added.

The company has line names such as swara (antelope), ndovu (elephant), chui (cheetah), Simba (lion) among other local Swahili names; a move that has continued to place Kenya and its culture on the international map.

Pinekazi has diversified its products to mats and carpets.

Award winning team

The sustainability of the Pinekazi innovative shoes has been recognized since the company started this venture in 2019.

Shoe made from Pineapple waste

In that same year, the young company won the 2019 Hult Prize Amman Regional Competition.

In 2022, Pinekazi won a $2000 prize for the first ever Fashionomics Africa Contest in the continent, an initiative by the African Development Bank.

Lang’at encouraged the young entrepreneurs to keep pushing their aspirations as they will one day pay off.

From left) Mike Lang’at, (centre) Olivia Awuor and Angela Nzomo (right) the team came up with Pinekazi, an initiative that uses pineapple waste to make footwear among other products

“All our dreams can come true if we have the courage and the patience to pursue them,” urged Lang’at.

In August last year, Pinekazi was honored by AfriLabs’ Africa Youth Innovation Awards as part of the top 6 African start ups that are creating measurable and positive impact towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Long term sustainability

While Pinekazi set the tone for other innovators to recycle organic waste, their projects over the years have helped in creating a sustainable environment and combating climate change.

Projects by the United Nations (UN) indicate that Kenya’s urban population is expected to grow from 15 million in 2023 to an approximate 43 million by 2050 which points urgently to the need to address the challenge of sanitation and waste resource management.

Adiitionally, for a sustainable economy, Pinekazi has transformed unemployed youths in the community as contractors who collect the discarded pineapple waste from farms and transport it to the production center where the process of making textile; sorting out, purifying and then manufacturing into a sustainable pineapple textile which is further crafted into shoes, bags among other products.

Africa Change Stories platform is established to tell African stories which are empowering and are at variant to stereotypical views of wars, famine, diseases. At African Change Stories, we believe narrative and angle matters. So we responsibly tell stories ethically. The platform therefore pushes forward great and energizing stories which will propel its people to consciously strive to do more. You have a story?

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