Lorna Rutto is transforming Africa’s waste to wealth with EcoPost
Lorna Rutto grew up in the Kaptembwa slums in Kenya. She experienced poverty, garbage and rotting waste in the streets, and clogged, overflowing sewers encroaching people’s homes.
As a young schoolgirl, her eco-consciousness came to the fore, when she noticed the huge amounts of plastic waste littering the environment.
She decided to start making a small difference to addressing the situation, recycling this plastic litter and making creative pieces of jewellery and small ornaments by melting the plastic, reshaping and decorating it into new objects.
She sold her creative work at school to other pupils and friends for small amounts of money, but it was a small step to becoming more environmentally aware.
After school, she went to college, graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Accounting, and went into a career in banking, a solid career choice given the tough employment market in Kenya at the time.
However, Lorna Rutto felt unfulfilled and longed to work with people and in the field of science, instead of working on financial systems and structures.
Her passion for the environment, and her desire to do something to address the increasing waste problem in the country, led her to take the entrepreneurial plunge, leave the banking sector, and starting up her business.
Lorna Rutto resigned her comfortable banking job in 2009 to start EcoPost, a plastic recycling business. It is a green business manufacturing aesthetically pleasing, durable and environmentally friendly fencing posts utilizing plastic waste.
Lorna Rutto decided to do something about the wastes in her country. Her business uses plastic waste collected from dumpsites and garbage cans across Nairobi to manufacture fencing posts. These posts, which are used to fence houses and forest reserves, are becoming a preferred alternative to timber.
So far, her innovative business idea has created over 7,000 fencing posts, 500 new jobs, generated more than $ 150,000 in yearly revenues, saved over 250 acres of forests and removed more than 1,000 tonnes of plastic waste from the environment.
Today, EcoPost is an entrepreneurial and an environmental corporate success story. The venture not only provides an effective solution to the management of the huge amounts of plastic waste created in Kenya each day, but also converts this waste into usable fencing products that in turn conserve forests that are under threat from logging.
Lorna Rutto reveals that her vision is “To transform Africa’s waste into wealth”. Her business uses waste plastic as a resource to manufacture aesthetic, durable, easy to use and environmentally friendly plastic lumber.
Her aim is to create a sustainable solution to the growing plastic waste menace, provide a suitable alternative material so that we reduce the cutting down of trees and create job opportunities to reduce poverty.
EcoPost buys plastic waste from collection yards across the country, where women buy waste plastic from unemployed young people, and then sort and clean it before selling it to them.
Lorna Rutto said: “I am actually turning the trash into cash while creating job opportunities, especially for the youth and women who are generally marginalized. Nothing makes me happier.”
EcoPost is also directly providing a solution to the terrible unemployment situation in the country, creating over 300 jobs for young people and women who were previously marginalised in society.
Going forward, the EcoPost business model is looking to create 100,000 jobs over the next 15 years. Its eco-foot print is no less impressive, with the company removing over 1 million kilos of plastic waste from Kenya’s urban slums, and saving around 250 acres of precious forest in the country.
Lorna Rutto remains an inspiration with her eco-business, EcoPost. She demonstrates how it is possible to create a viable and sustainable business in Africa, while positively impacting local communities and the environment at the same time.