This Ghanaian invents an alternative way to build roads

Across Africa, communities are devising new approaches to manage plastic waste. In Ghana, a former factory hand for Ashaiman may have found a new way to deal with the polymers contaminating our environments.

Nelson Boateng, a Ghana-born network engineer, recently developed a form of asphalt recycled from his country’s plastic waste, particularly plastic bags, which is then used to pave roads and pavements.

Boateng carried scrap metals, electric cables and motors parts to build his own plastic recycling machine, the process beginning with shredded plastic mixed with sand in a metallic drum, according to CRTV.

Plastic pavement blocks. Courtesy: Nelplast

Boateng came up with the idea after plastic bags were banned in Ghana, following the footsteps of leaders around the world finding and enforcing sustainable ways to craft bans on plastic in an attempt to grapple with the escalating problem of plastic pollution. Nations like Taiwan, France, and Kenya, are three of the most recent countries to crack down on plastic, joining countries like Morocco which is ranked as one of the world’s greenest countries.

According to statistics by the World Economic Forum, by the year 2050, there will be more plastic waste in our oceans than there are fish as an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the oceans each year, harming animals and ecosystems.

Ghana produces 22,000 tonnes plastic waste annually according to Trashy Bags, out of which the country recycles only 2%, with the remaining 98% usually dumped on land fields.

According to BBC, Boateng says he wants to lead the recycling revolution for Ghana so that the country will up its recycling to at least 50% of plastic waste, keeping the environment clean and creating jobs for the youths of communities.

Boateng with the Minister of Environment, Ghana. Courtesy: Nelplast
Plastic pavement blocks. Courtesy: Nelplast

In 2017, he built his own recycling machine from scrap metal, electrical wires and motors, and eight months after, started operations to collect and recycle almost 2000kg of plastic waste from Ashaiman areas—laying some of the plastic pavement blocks free of charge, back in his community.

Boateng’s new form of asphalt is made from 60% plastic waste and 40% sand according to BBC, compared with traditional asphalt, which is made almost completely with aggregate sand.

The network engineer believes that just like plastics take about 500 years before they start decomposing, the plastic pavement blocks should last 500 years as they are hard to rot and last longer than cement.

The entrepreneur is now paving roads throughout Ghana with his company, Nelplast, which directly and indirectly employs more than 230 people.

By creating an innovation that could turn mountains of trash into a functional product that is crucial to the handling of the world’s waste problem, Boateng has succeeded in contributing economically and globally in the fight against pollution and the construction of greener cities in Africa.