Clean & Proud was set up with one goal in mind : removing plastic waste from the stunning Malawian environment by recycling it into useful products.
After multiple trials and failures, we stumbled upon this easy and manageable way of recycling single use plastics polluting the city of Mzuzu, Malawi : heat sealing them into sturdy, durable sheets. We realised these sheets could be used as lining for handicraft products and that is how the C&P range of products started.
We have even started recycling cigarette filters with our secret process which was such an achievement for us!
Reaching the quality of products we have today was not an easy process and it is still on-going! We have been working with the same team for over a year now, and only thanks to everyone’s effort has we been able to proudly present our products to sell.
But this brought yet another problem… Were we holistically sustainable in our approach? Or were we creating another problem by solving the plastic pollution issue?
Production line waste
We source all our materials locally and are careful to use it wisely. However we quickly realised we were creating a lot of waste of recycled plastic and wax cotton (little bits and offcuts) during the production of our products. We therefore restratigised of material cutting to be as wasteless as possible. We also started giving all wax cotton (chitenge) off-cuts to two women in need. They use this left over material to create beautiful mats they sell to earn an income.
We also started working with more upcycled cotton, hemp and linen materials. Sadly, we are not using 100% upcycled materials yet, but are discussing with a furniture factory to give us their off-cuts to be upcycled. We can’t wait to get started!
One of the things which has to be done when recycling waste is to clean it. Of course…! Not wanting to contaminate the soils and waters from our water waste with chemicals, we built a bioremediation pond in our backyard. Digging a huge pit, mixing cement, walking 10km with fish in a bag in the one hand and reeds in the other wasn’t easy, but it is worth it! Plus, we get lots of birds at the workshop now!
Powering the workshop
Finally, we are in the midst of powering the workshop with organic waste. We got a grant from Treadright with the Treadright Pledge Fund to fund for the purchase and installation of a biogas digester. This is very exciting and will allow us to not be ruled by power cuts and black outs.
No true change can come without awareness and education. Creating C&P products out of plastic waste is a wonderful adventure but the underlying problems cannot be solved unless the issue of plastic waste is properly addressed.
Clean & Proud has conducted 2 outreach and awareness campaigns in local schools and aim to conduct further campaigns in future. During these campaigns, students were taught about the harmfulness of plastic waste on their health and the environment. We discussed the correlation between littering plastic and high rates of malaria, the harmfulness of using plastic to light charcoal stoves (a very common issue in Malawi), amongst many other subjects. We also arranged with headmasters to set up bins to collect recyclable plastics in these schools. Sadly the schools have closed due to corona virus and this project has been put on hold.
Currently, 1% of every sale goes into this project. With further sales and donations, we will be able to reach more students and have a greater impact.
Each outreach and awareness campaign costs on average €20. This includes the costs of transport, lunch and the precious time of our outreach officer.
Decent workplace and wage
We make sure all our team earn a fair wage, receive a healthy meal for lunch and work in a decent space.
We offer a free on-site nursery for all our female staff’s infants.
Having children and taking care of them is not an easy task when you are a working mother. The consequence is often that women do not enter the labour market, but rather remain working at home. To give them the opportunity to get out of the home and upskill, we opened a nursery in March 2020, where the babies are looked after whilst they work in the workshop close-by.
We currently welcome 2 of our staff’s babies : Francis and Lucy, whose little chirps make life at the office much nicer !
We offer breast pumps and a fridge mothers can use if they wish, enabling them to still feed their children breast milk. We also offer to help with 50% of the costs for powdered milk for mothers who do not wish to use the breast pump.
Before offering to help with this extra cost for mothers, we observed babies were not being provided with healthy, nutritious milk and foods.
Therefore we also provide bananas and avocados every day for the babies eating solids and mothers are asked to bring porridge in daily.
Donations go towards:
the employment of our fantastic nanny, Lyness.
paying for 50% of the powdered milk.
buying fresh fruits and avocados every day.
Once these basic costs are covered, we wish to get two rocking cribs for young babies (another member of our staff is expecting a baby) and toys built by local carpenters.
We would also love to offer this service to our other staff members for any young children they are responsible for until children are old enough to go to school.
We fund our project thanks to donations and revenue generated from sales. Funding is attributed according to the following priority:
– single use plastic waste collection from local households and companies;
– removal of single use plastic waste from the urban environment;
– cleaning and recycling of the plastic waste into C&P products;
– conducting awareness campaigns in local schools;
– expanding our operations.
Clean & Proud aims to achieve complete sustainability of operations through sale of C&P products by 2022.
A sustainably powered workshop
We will be implementing a biogas digester to run the workshop – we received a grant from Treadright of $2,500 to make this possible.
Bins for everyone
We wish to set up bins in the worst affected market place accompanied with an outreach and education event in the same area. This implementation will be involve regular collection of the plastic waste by Clean & Proud.
Paid collection stations
We aim to set up collection stations in various areas to collect recyclables we can deal with. Waste will be purchased by Clean & Proud by the kilogram from anyone dropping it off.
We would like to develop new machinery: a heat press to become more efficient in processing single use plastic waste. We will need help and advice from engineers for this project. If you are an engineer and wish to discover Malawi for a couple of months whilst helping us develop such machinery, contact us via email. firstname.lastname@example.org
We would also like to purchase new machinery to recycle PET plastic bottles.