Because plastics have long been a plague in Africa, one engineer who hails from Cameroon has devised a roof coating made from plastics, making such environmental waste into something useful. Calvin Tiam, an engineer specializing in industrial process technology and renewable energy, makes his prototype in Burkina Faso.
Using plastics did not directly come upon Tiam, but instead found a problem in Ouagadougou where he lives: roofing materials.
As he was walking around the neighborhood and noticed that the large majority of homes in Ouagadougou are covered in corrugated iron, he thought of replacing these makeshift roof that is not ideal for the Sub-Saharan climate. Because it produces more heat, the conventional roofs easily reaches to 50 deg Celsius making the people living in those houses uncomfortable.
He started using plastics to make roof coating in 2011. But because he was short of support, he took his project to the 2IE incubator in in Ouagadougou to create his company he calls TECO2 or ‘Toiture ECOlogique et ECOnomique’ (ECOlogical and ECOnomical roofing in English).
“Locally manufactured, this material adds considerable value to polyethylene plastic waste. A square meter of TECO2 sheathing represents approximately 10 kg of recycled plastic, representing a reduction of 9 kg in CO2 equivalent greenhouse gas in the environment,” he says.
The roofing material he made is up to 400 times more insulating than corrugated iron. It allows people in their houses to decrease electricity consumption by reducing the use of ventilation systems or air-conditioning units.
Design of the plastic panel is also not a problem as it is visually pleasing in its final form. It is colored with a smooth touch, thanks to the extrusion process. One would not think that it is actually made of plastic wastes.
As of late 2016, Tiam has been working at the LEMC of the 2IE in Burkina Faso, the Pimm from the Paris Tech Arts, and the Crafts and GFMP from Itech Lyon in France, to finish his prototype. This is to ensure that the final product does not release any noxious gas in the environment.
Tiam already has his own production unit with a few equipment. In his own facility, he dreams of recycling 500 tons of plastic annually to provide for about 1,300 households. It will create about 20 jobs.
“In order to do this, I am presently seeking financial backup and partners to begin series production and carry out a comprehensive review of the performances of the material through the building of a pilot home,” Tiam says.