The global production of plastic waste is projected to triple to over 1,000 million tonnes by 2060, posing a significant environmental challenge. However, there is hope for mitigating plastic pollution as the share of recycled plastic is expected to nearly double to 17% during the same period. In Africa, Kubik, an upcycling startup operating in Kenya and Ethiopia, is at the forefront of plastic waste reuse and sustainability efforts in the continent’s emerging recycling sector. Currently, only four percent of the waste produced in Africa is salvaged.
Kubik specializes in transforming hard-to-recycle plastic waste, including polyethylene, polypropylene, and polystyrene, into affordable building materials such as bricks, columns, beams, and jambs. The startup removes 45,000 kilograms of plastic waste from landfills every day. With a recent seed funding round of $3.34 million, Kubik plans to expand its production of building materials in Ethiopia and subsequently scale its operations to other African countries. The company’s Ethiopian plant is expected to have the capacity to construct over a quarter-million square meters of wall surface area annually.
According to Kidus Asfaw, the CEO of Kubik, the production capacity can enable the construction of up to 10,000 affordable homes per year, addressing the global deficit of housing units considered affordable for the poor. This presents a market opportunity of over $2 trillion, which Kubik aims to tap into. The company has already achieved recognition for its innovative approach, winning the Startup of the Year award at the 2023 Global Startup Awards and being named the leading climate tech startup in Africa at the VivaTech conference.
Notable investors participating in the seed funding round include Plug & Play, Bestseller Foundation, GIIG Africa Fund, Satgana, Unruly Capital, Savannah Fund, African Renaissance Partners, Kazana Fund, Princeton Alumni Angels, and Andav Capital. Their investment reflects the belief that Kubik’s purpose-driven vision, exceptional team, and unique business model combining social impact, circular economy principles, and low-carbon construction make it a scalable and sustainable solution to Africa’s pressing challenges.
Kubik’s interlocking building materials, such as bricks, columns, beams, and jambs, eliminate the need for cement, aggregates, and steel in construction. Asfaw assures that the integrity and strength of walls built with Kubik’s products are comparable to cement-based walls. Furthermore, the company’s materials cost at least 40% less per square meter and possess chemical properties that make them safe, anti-flammable, and non-degradable. These products are also low-carbon, with greenhouse gas emissions at least five times lower than cement-based alternatives.
Kubik believes that the affordability of its materials can help address the current housing deficit driven by rapid urbanization and high construction costs. As global calls for reducing plastic waste and promoting circular use of plastics continue, the startup is actively driving change through its sustainable and cost-effective building solutions. By providing a lower-carbon and more affordable alternative, Kubik contributes to tackling the challenges of unmanaged plastic waste, unaffordable housing, and climate change. The company envisions further advancements in technology to revolutionize the materials used for decarbonizing the built environment.