Creating Treasures Out of Trash

All it takes is a dream to accomplish great things in life. That dream started in Lorna Rutto when as a young girl in Kenya, the piles of plastic litter everywhere annoyed and disgusted her. She wanted to find a way to clean it up. Experimenting with melting the plastic brought two things to light: she saw that it was possible for plastic to take another shape—a smaller, more condensed form; she also was able to bring in a small amount of money from the jewelry she made from the fun, new shapes she created.

At graduation, life’s responsibilities took the forefront in Rutto’s visions for her future, and she decided on a career in banking. This brought stability to her new life as a young adult, but she was kept from the things she loved: people, creativity and environmental science. In 2009, Rutto quit her job and with business partner Charles Kalama started EcoPost—a company that makes plastic posts and poles by simple injection molding.

Positive energy is contagious in this social entrepreneur. She has enhanced her community by providing jobs for hundreds of people. These people are needed to collect the 40 tons of plastic waste that EcoPost uses every month. This is a vitally important service to the women of Nairobi and at-risk youth, who normally would not have a reasonable means to make money. Many of these freelance employees have started their own waste collection businesses, hiring other people to collect these plastics, thus, creating more jobs.

The business already has more contracts than it can keep up with from ranches and game reserves. Plastic fence posts are more popular than timber because they are stable, won’t deteriorate, and there is a much less likely chance of them being stolen for sale on the black market. Available timber is dwindling in Africa from deforestation, and this is one of Rutto’s prime goals in her eco-dream—to stop logging before there are no more trees. Expansion across Kenya is the next step for this growing company, as well as plans for other products that could be used in place of timber, such as support beams, roofing trusses and floor tiles.

Forbes named this superstar in their “20 Youngest Power Women in Africa, 2012.”  In addition, she has won numerous awards for her innovative company and dedication to cleaning up the environment. One of these included the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award, in 2011. This included business mentorship for a year and $20,000. The money bought a much-needed company truck, and several waste collection sites were established in her community to facilitate the rapid growth of EcoPost.

A simple dream that started from a girl who had no job, no investment money—nothing, but a pile of trash and her desire to save trees and clean up her community. Lorna Rutto is a perfect example of how to be a social entrepreneur. Like Lorna, everyone has dreams. Everyone has potential to make an important change in the world, to make our world a better place.

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