Greenslabs is a Bulawayo based startup that manufactures sidewalk paving blocks from recycled plastic. It’s a truly innovative idea with a great story behind it. I caught up with founder Mandipa Masuku to find out a bit more about Greenslabs.
Greenslabs started operations in August 2018. After doing an internship at the international Policy Center in Brazil Mandipa was inspired by the inclusivity of Brazil’s transport system. She yearned to bring a similar concept to Zimbabwe and after returning to Zimbabwe in 2018 she found a way. The aim was to encourage a cleaner city by using recycled material collected of the streets of Bulawayo, to create s product that served all road users.
The company that currently employees 5 people two of whom are still in training initially set up with very basic equipment. Operations were neither lucrative nor feasible at the time. However, the response to the project was inspiring. Greenslabs then set out on a path to invest in technology to bring their operations to a viable scale. In order to do this, they had to halt operations in February 2019.
The automation of processes was also to adhere to Environmental Management Authority standards. By designing their own equipment and machines they aim to provide a stronger and more appealing product. As a green enterprise, a more environmentally friendly product is also a key target.
Greenslabs are currently in their final phase of fabrication and intend to reopen in September. Their products have been tested at the Cement and Concrete Institute in Bulawayo and the findings of a high compression rate and a high tolerance to liquid likened their product to concrete in quality. In some cases, their slabs outperformed the concrete contemporaries.
When asked about the challenges the business faces Mandipa outlined 3 issues. Currently, such a market is ideal for International Organisations, Governments and NGOs as these tend to have subsidies on the sale of green products. A lot of effort has to be applied therefore to conform to these standards. However, the product is ideal for consumers wanting to use it as pavers. Secondly, Greenslabs is not immune to the rampant price increases that the entire economy and fuel price increases are a pain point for them. It is very difficult to conduct business with unstable prices. Finally being first to market is a challenge as much effort needs to be put into convincing people that the product is indeed suitable for the purpose.
Green slabs was a finalist at the green enterprise Challenge in March 2019. The competition hosts green innovations from around Zimbabwe. The International Labour Organisation SIMUKA-PHAKAMA Green enterPRIZE Innovation Challenge supported by Embassy of Sweden in Harare is creating a platform for green enterprise innovation and development to ensure Zimbabwe thrives by empowering citizens and businesses, particularly women and youth, to drive the creation of green and decent jobs. Watch this video to learn more about the Green enterPRIZE Innovation Challenge – Simuka Phakama.
Vusi Tembekwayo once said “start small while dreaming big” and indeed the story of Green Slabs resonates with this quote. Greenslabs is certainly an inspiring story, the kind we look forward to updating our readers on as it grows.