From making paper out of elephant dung to building homes with used cardboard, eco@africa has featured a range of inventive recycling ideas. Here are our top five innovations doing their bit for the environment.
1. Turning elephant dung into paper in Uganda
A group of women in western Uganda have been making paper—and a livelihood—out of elephant dung. The community in the Rubirizi district borders the Queen Elizabeth National Park, meaning its resident elephants are frequent visitors to villagers' gardens, destroying their crops. But rather than taking revenge on the animals, the people decided to celebrate the opportunities it brings. The women -mostly widows whose husbands were shot dead by rangers while hunting for elephant tusks - hope the newfound source of income the paper generates will combat elephant poaching.
2. Houses from recycled paper
Swiss architect Fredy Iseli came up with a novel way to make houses more environmentally-friendly, both in terms of building materials and energy supply. He has spent almost 30 years developing a unique system that enables the construction of a house from recycled paper. It’s not only earthquake and fire-proof, but is also 12 times lighter than concrete and cheaper to produce than regular houses. His design means the DIY houses take just two months to build, making them perfect for places with changing weather patterns.
3. Making greener recycled paper from grass
Producing conventional paper means cutting down trees, but recycled paper often contains toxic chemicals, as printer ink can leave residues on recycled paper. A European Union guideline saying that foodstuffs like fruit and pasta must not be packaged in direct contact with cardboard boxes carrying mineral residues is posing a challenge to manufacturers of products made with recycled paper. But German company Creapaper has found a greener alternative by making paper out of grass. If recycled paper is no longer an option for food packaging, that could mean an opportunity for the grass paper manufacturers to expand into that market.
4. Kenya’s recycled pencils
Globally, we get through 14 billion pencils each year, with a lot of wood going into their manufacture. A few years ago, Kenyan entrepreneurs began producing eco-friendly, non-toxic pencils from recycled newspaper. Their bright idea has quickly progressed from rough sketch to thriving business, supplying schools, government agencies and corporate firms.
5. Turning tires into cushions in Niger
Niger’s capital Niamey has no regular rubbish collection so trash is often burned at illegal dumping sites. Environmental activist Amina Issa Ado in Niger hit upon a great way to recycle tires, while at the same time creating jobs for locals: making seat cushions out of used tires. The recycled cushions are also more comfortable and even last longer than traditional Sahel ones.